States vary in the severity of their drunk driving penalties. In Pennsylvania, the governor recently signed legislation that will increase the consequences for some first-time drunk driving offenders.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill into law just ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, when drunk driving crashes spike. According to an official with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, "176 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes over Memorial Day weekend last year." However, the new law won't take effect for another 15 months.
What Does the New Law Do?
Many people convicted of a DUI for the first time who have a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.1 will be required to have an ignition interlock device in their cars for 12 months. A driver must blow into the device before starting the vehicle. If the IID detects alcohol, the engine won't start.
Once the Pennsylvania law goes into effect, there will be only two states that don't require IIDs for at least some people with first-time DUI convictions -- Idaho and Massachusetts.
MADD: Interlock Devices Have Stopped Thousands of Drunk Drivers in Pennsylvania
The MADD official says that IIDs have proven effective for over a decade. He says, "Devices on their vehicles have stopped more than 78,000 instances of drunken driving, right here in Pennsylvania."
According to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation figures, over 10,000 collisions in the state in 2015 involved drunk drivers. The MADD spokesman says that thousands of people were injured and over 300 were killed in those crashes.
Don't Underestimate the Consequences of a DUI Conviction
The ramifications of a DUI go beyond potential jail time. Even if you escape that, you can be hit with costly fines, mandatory alcohol awareness classes (which also cost money), an IID (which you have to pay for) and the loss of your driver's license for a period of time. If you are convicted more than once, the penalties only increase.
As we noted, the potential penalties for a DUI depend on where you're arrested. Sometimes two adjoining cities or counties can even have different DUI laws. That's why it's essential to have a criminal defense attorney who has experience handling DUI cases in your jurisdiction. These attorneys know how to challenge evidence, such as the calibration of the Breathalyzer. Even a tiny discrepancy can mean significant changes in potential penalties.
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