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Pennsylvania's ignition interlock program for DUI offenders

There are a lot of potential consequences for those accused or convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in Pennsylvania. In addition to criminal penalties, such as fines and jail time, people facing DUI charges may also have to deal with the frustration of an ignition interlock system in their vehicles. This program is one of many intended to deter drunk driving.

The intent behind the creations of the ignition interlock program is to allow limited licenses for those convicted of intoxicated driving offenses. After all, most people need to drive to work and earn money. Parents also need to pick their kids up from school, so the complete loss of licensing could punish not just the convicted person, but everyone in their family. Participation in the ignition interlock program could allow some people the ability to retain driving privileges.

What is an ignition interlock system?

Since 2017, even first time DUI offenders with high blood alcohol content (BAC) and those who refuse chemical testing during a roadside stop are subject to mandatory ignition interlock installation in their vehicles.

An ignition interlock system is a device installed into a motor vehicle that will not allow anyone under the influence of alcohol to start and drive the vehicle. The person must blow into the device before starting the vehicle. If the device detects any alcohol, it will not allow the vehicle to start.

The device will also occasionally alert the driver to complete another test while driving. This system is available via a lease from state-authorized vendors. The installation and lease for one of these systems costs between $900 and $1,300 per year.

What are the limits on an Ignition Interlock Limited License?

For those issued a limited license under the Ignition Interlock program, it is illegal to operate any other vehicle not equipped with an ignition interlock system. Their licenses have a bright red block behind the state name of Pennsylvania, and the words "limited license" are printed in capital letters near the top of the license.

If a person with this form of license chooses to operate another motor vehicle and ends up pulled over, there could be penalties for violating the terms of maintaining the limited license. These could include the loss of the limited license, as well as fines and potential jail time. Those accused of tampering with the ignition interlock system in their vehicle face similar penalties.

First time offenses related to a limited license result in a one year extension of the limited license period. Second or subsequent offenses will result in the loss of the limited license and loss of driver's licensing for a full year. After that year, the person will have to participate in the ignition interlock program for a year.

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