The coordinator of the Washington County DUI Court, John Ridge, would like people to use the term “first conviction” instead of “first offense” when talking about the changes made recently to Pennsylvania’s driving while intoxicated law.
Typically, the first time a driver is picked up for a DUI that does not involve a crash, he or she might be offered ARD. Otherwise known as Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, a person qualifies as long as he or she has submitted to a breath test or blood test and their blood alcohol level is on the lower end of the intoxication spectrum.
ARD does not result in a drunk driving conviction, but it is also only offered one time. Any DUI charge a person receives after going through ARD could end up being a first conviction.
Ridge states that the law is difficult to understand.
A summation offered by the American Automobile Association states that the first time a person is charged with a BAC that is over .10%, he or she is required to have an ignition interlock installed on their vehicle. Prior to this, the device was only required for second offenses and any that came after that.
With the change in the law, a first-time DUI offender is allowed to retain driving privileges immediately, instead of having to wait to drive until after they serve a driver’s license suspension. Under the old law, a first-time offender lost his or her driver’s license for anywhere from 30 days to a year, depending on how much alcohol was detected in their system.
Drivers who decline to participate in a blood-alcohol test on their first offense will be permitted, after serving six months of a license suspension, to have the device installed and drive, regardless of the length of their suspension. The previous law required the driver to serve such a license suspension for a year to a year-and-a-half.
The device also tests randomly as the car is traveling down the road with the driver behind the wheel. This is called a “rolling re-test.” It will prevent a driver having another person breathe into the interlock device so the he or she can drive drunk.
Ridge describes the device as “pretty nifty;” the offender is required to pay for the installation of the device.
Last year in Washington County, 299 people either pled guilty to DUI charges or were found guilty of them either by a jury or in a bench trial in front of a judge.
Ridge says that all of them were “subject to some form of ignition interlock.”
Along with the ignition interlock device, drivers now need an interlock license. Under the old law, they were allowed to hold an occupational limited license that let them drive to work, treatment, or school. However, drivers going through the ARD program must have all their fines and court costs paid before becoming eligible for it and the ignition interlock device.
Of those arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania, the average blood alcohol level is 0.17 percent, more than double the 0.08 percent legal limit.
The new law increases the number of offenders eligible to use an ignition interlock device. It also lowers the cost for offenders, who now only need have it installed on one car, rather than every vehicle the driver owns.
Greene County’s adult probation officer, Craig Wise, says the data shows ignition interlock devices are effective. People remain sober so they can drive, it lets people drive who would have lost their license, and allows them to maintain a job and educational opportunities, despite a DUI charge.
If you are one of those arrested for DUI, call us at Logue Law Group. My associates and I will be glad to help. Contact us today at (412) 612-2210 or (412) 612-2210 AVAILABLE 24/7 You can also contact us online.