FAQ About Ignition Interlock Systems in PA | Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys

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FAQs About Ignition Interlock Systems in PA

Like many other Pennsylvania drivers, you’re probably aware that a drunk driving conviction carries hefty penalties. A first time DUI could lead to six months’ probation and a $300 fine. The punishments increase for higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels and prior arrests. What you may not know is the law on ignition interlock systems in PA. Under certain circumstances, a court could order you to install a device on your vehicle that prevents the engine from starting if it detects alcohol on your breath.

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, our lawyers understand that an ignition interlock device (IID) can severely limit your driving privileges and personal freedoms. Still, an arrest doesn’t equal a conviction, whether it’s your first time facing DUI charges or were previously involved in a drunk driving case. Please contact our firm at (412) 281-2146 to set up a no-cost consultation with a Pittsburgh DUI lawyer today. Meanwhile, you may find it useful to review answers to frequently asked questions about ignition interlock systems in PA.

How do ignition interlock devices work?

An ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer that is installed in motor vehicles to prevent individuals from being able to operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. The device requires drivers to blow into it before the vehicle will start. If alcohol is detected, the vehicle will not start. The device may also require drivers to test at periodic times while they are operating the vehicle.

What’s the application process for an IID?

Once you’ve determined your vendor for the IID, you must fill out an application for an Ignition Interlock License application and pay the following fees to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT):

  • A $67 non-refundable petition fee;
  • The duplicate license fee in the amount of $30.50 ($35.50 for motorcyclists)
  • A restoration fee which may range from $25 to $100; and,
  • An additional one-half of the restoration fee amount, if you’re required to install an IID because of a refusal to submit to chemical testing.

How much does a PA ignition interlock system cost?

The devices can be costly to install and maintain. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation estimates that they can cost as much as $1,000 per system, and each vehicle owned would require installation.

There are various factors that impact the cost of an IID, including the length of time you’re required to have one installed and the features you must purchase. For instance, a court may require you to implement a GPS, real-time reporting, a camera, or other features. On average, an ignition interlock system costs around $900 to $1,300 per year, which you pay to an IID vendor as a rental arrangement. There are also fees for the initial installation of the device and regular calibration of the technology.

How long will I need an IID installed on my vehicle?

In most cases, you’ll need to have the ignition interlock system on your vehicle for one year. That time period could be extended if you tamper with the IID or are caught operating a vehicle that doesn’t have one installed.

Does the ignition interlock requirement affect my PA driver’s license?

Yes, when you apply for an IID according to the requirements above, PennDOT will issue you an Ignition Interlock Limited License. Your driver’s license will include a red banner behind the word “Pennsylvania,” the term “Limited License,” and a stamp indicating “Ignition Interlock.” These notations are meant to alert officials about your status if you’re pulled over while driving.

Why would an ignition interlock technology be required in a drunk driving case?

There are multiple situations that may trigger the requirement to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle. An IID is mandatory for:

  • All offenders who have a prior DUI offense;
  • Anyone whose driver’s license is suspended because of a refusal to submit to a chemical test to measure BAC; and,
  • A person who’s required to have an IID and is seeking restoration of driving privileges pursuant to a restricted license.

What is a “prior DUI” for purposes of the IID?

A “prior” offense extends to many different legal scenarios and outcomes in a drunk driving case, including:

  • A conviction for DUI;
  • Order regarding delinquency or juvenile consent decree, which applies if you’re under age 18 years old;
  • Your assent to an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, a type of probation where DUI charges are dismissed subject to completing the conditions ordered by the judge;

To qualify as a prior offense, the lookback period is 10 years from the date you were arrested or sentenced for the current drunk driving charges.

Can first-time offenders get ignition interlock devices?

Pennsylvania has historically required ignition interlock devices for repeat drunk drivers; however, the new law requires some first-time offenders to install and use the devices as well. If a first-time offender has a BAC level of 0.10 percent or higher, they may be required to use an ignition interlock device for at least one year.

Pennsylvania law also provides for individuals who commit second and subsequent DUI violations as well as people who refuse chemical testing to apply for an ignition interlock device once a portion of their license suspension has been served.

What are the common concerns about ignition interlock devices?

Some opponents of ignition interlock devices point out that they have faults. Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established standards for these devices, they are not always accurate and reliable.

Typically, they must be serviced every 60 days. The device requires more frequent service if a violation is detected. If it is not serviced on time, it will go into lockout mode and the vehicle will not start.

Additionally, certain medications, mouthwash, and health conditions can result in an inaccurate reading. If you have recently used an alcohol-based mouthwash, the device may restrict driving until alcohol is no longer detected. These concerns are significant and may prevent people from driving when they have done nothing wrong.

A Pittsburgh DUI Attorney Can Answer Additional Questions

Hopefully, this information provides a helpful overview of ignition interlock systems in PA. Still, you’ll need more details and experienced representation to obtain a favorable outcome in a DUI case. To speak with a member of our team, please contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC You can schedule your free consultation by calling (412) 281-2146 or our online contact form.