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Pennsylvania cracks down on first time DUI offenders

Criminal penalties can change. This is highlighted by the upcoming change to Pennsylvania's driving under the influence (DUI) sentencing options.

The change is the result of a bill signed back in May by Governor Tom Wolf. The bill takes current sentencing options for DUI convictions and expands them to include the use of mandatory ignition interlock device installations for certain DUI offenses. The law is scheduled to go into effect in 2017.

What are ignition interlock devices? These devices are installed in vehicles and are designed to keep the vehicle from starting until a breath sample is provided by the driver. Once the sample is provided, it is analyzed. If the sample is found to contain a certain, predetermined amount of alcohol, the vehicle will not start.

How is this change different than current law? Current law generally only allows for the use of these devices in cases involving repeat DUI offenders. The new law expands this to include those facing their first DUI conviction.

When would a first DUI conviction lead to installation of an ignition interlock device? The new law provides for the sentencing option to include the installation of an ignition interlock device for convictions for first DUIs involving a blood alcohol content (BAC) above 0.10 percent.

How many people will this effect? A recent piece by a local ABC affiliate notes that the new law is estimated to impact up to 12,000 additional drivers in Pennsylvania.

It is also important to note that those drivers who are required to use these devices must do so on all vehicles the driver intends to operate. The driver is also responsible for the costs connected to these devices. These costs generally include a $65 application fee plus anywhere from $800 to $1,300 to operate and install the devices.

What should I do if I am charged with a DUI? This law is an example of the evolving nature of criminal law in Pennsylvania. The law changes, and with these changes can come new and unexpected penalties.

As a result, those facing these or similar charges are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced DUI attorney. This legal professional can discuss how the charges will impact you and what potential penalties can apply. Your attorney can also advocate for your rights and build a defense strategy to help better ensure your interests are protected.

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