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New DUI penalties take effect


New drunk driving penalties will take effect in Pennsylvania on Aug. 25 that will permit first-time offenders to continue driving if they install ignition interlock devices. Proponents argue that this law will lead to safer driving in the state. Ignition interlocks require a driver to breathe into the device before operating the vehicle. It prevents the car from starting if the driver's blood alcohol content level is above 0.025 percent.

Statistics from the Mothers Against Drunk Driving show that ignition interlocks stopped over 65,500 motorists in the state from trying to drive while intoxicated. Approximately 10,000 motorists have already installed these devices into their car. According to predictions, another 7,000 motorists will qualify to install an ignition interlock under this new law.

Pennsylvania motorists are legally impaired if the BAC level exceeds the legal limit of 0.08 percent. Convicted drivers with a BAC level below 0.10 percent are not penalized with a license suspension. First-time DUI convictions have not generally lead to any incarceration. Convicted DUI offenders are usually sentenced to probation, fines and driver's license suspensions.

Most cases, moreover, have not resulted in actual convictions. Drivers without a criminal record may qualify for the accelerated rehabilitative program that allows the expungement of a criminal record if a defendant successfully completed a sentence of probation.

Ignition interlocks were only available to drivers repeatedly convicted of a DUI. Until the new law takes effect, Pennsylvania mandates a one-year license suspension if a driver is convicted of driving with a BAC level over 0.10 percent.

License suspensions will remain as an option for first-time offenders under the new law. However, they will have the option of buying a special license from the Department of Transportation for the ignition interlock devices on their car. The average installation cost of this device is $800 to $1,300 per year.

Proponents of this law claim that these devices can change driving behavior. Additionally, many motorists have continued to drive with a suspended license or no license with the absence of an ignition interlock.

Regardless of the sentence, a drunk driving arrest can have severe consequences. An attorney can help assure that a driver's rights are protected and that they pursue reasonable legal options when charged with a DUI offense.

Source: The TribLive, "Allowing first-time DUI offenders to use lock devices might make roads safer," By Rich Cholodofsky, July 29, 2017

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