Pa. Considers Ignition Interlocks for 1st-Time DUIs

By Betty Wang, JD on October 22, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A proposed DUI law would require ignition interlock devices even for first-time DUI offenders in Pennsylvania, making it the 21st state in the nation to do so.

Pennsylvania's current law only requires ignition interlock devices for second-time (or subsequent) DUI convictions. Supporters of Senate Bill 1036 insist that requiring first-time DUI offenders to get the devices installed in their cars will help save lives, Harrisburg's WHTM-TV reports.

What is an ignition interlock device, and what do others think about the bill?

Ignition Interlock Devices in Pennsylvania

Ignition interlock devices are instruments placed into one's car that prevent a driver from operating a vehicle if the device detects alcohol on the driver's breath.

Once installed, the driver has to blow into the device every time he gets into his car. If the machine doesn't detect any alcohol, the car will start. But if there's any trace of alcohol detected on the driver's breath, then the driver will likely have to wait a certain amount of time before trying again. In addition, the failed breath test can potentially be reported.

State laws vary when it comes to requiring an ignition interlock device for DUI convictions; the requirement may also vary by county. Regardless, it is an expensive addition to the cost of a DUI -- typically, the offender has to pay for the device itself, along with installation and other fees.

Conflicting Opinions

Supporters of SB 1036 are say the heftier price for first-time DUI offenders is worth it. "This is insurance that an individual getting behind the wheel of a car is sober," State Sen. John Rafferty, the bill's sponsor, explained to WHTM-TV.

But there are opponents to imposing such a strict penalty on those who don't have any prior DUIs or criminal convictions. One DUI attorney told WHTM he worried the proposed law fails to distinguish between a habitual drunk and "a person who drinks too much one time and [makes] a mistake."

Many other states already impose this penalty on first-time offenders, though, and even the National Transportation Safety Board is pushing for all states to do so.

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