Being charged with driving under the influence in Pennsylvania can have very serious consequences.
Depending on the circumstances, DUIs may lock you out of certain jobs, increase your auto insurance rates, drain your pockets with large fines, and even land you in prison.
Even so, for many people the worst fear is losing your driver’s license.
Of course, you might get by for a while on the kindness of friends or family, bicycles, public transit, or app-based rideshares.
But almost everybody in America needs to be able to drive sometimes, whether to work, your school, your children’s school, medical appointments, or grocery stores. Your responsibilities are your responsibility, after all.
Pennsylvania has increased its use of a device that can help some people convicted of DUI offenses keep their driver’s license and keep their lives more manageable.
Ignition interlock systems
Ignition interlock systems are basically Breathalyzers for the ignition switch of your car.
Before you can start your vehicle, you have to blow into the device. If the device detects alcohol on your breath, the vehicle won’t start. Even if it does start, you have to blow into the device now and then to recheck.
You must pay the cost of the device and it isn’t cheap. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation currently reports the price at between $900 to $1,300 per year.
How does that help you?
Pennsylvania law punishes certain DUI offenses by, among other things, requiring an ignition interlock device to be installed on every vehicle driven by those convicted.
For subsequent offenses, the punishments quickly get more severe, including license suspensions or revocations (taking your driver’s license temporarily or permanently.)
To implement the interlock system, Pennsylvania has created what’s known as an Ignition Interlock Limited License.
It’s a special driver’s license that allows you to drive a vehicle, but only if it’s equipped with an ignition interlock. It’s a license suspension or revocation with an exception.
If you've lost your driving privileges, it may be possible for you to retain your ability to drive by securing an ignition interlock license.
This way, a device that seems at first like a punishment can become a lifeline, enabling people to live their lives more normally. Under the right circumstances, it can help people with DUI convictions meet their responsibilities to their families and their futures.