DUI Conviction and Pennsylvania's Ignition Interlock Device Law

In Pennsylvania, people who are convicted of a second or subsequent DUI offense are subject to the Pennsylvania Ignition Interlock Law (the "Law"). This means that after convicted drivers have served their suspension for driving under the influence, the Law requires them to install an ignition interlock device in their motor vehicles.

What Is an Ignition Interlock Device?

An ignition interlock device prohibits individuals under the influence of alcohol from operating a vehicle. Drivers are required to blow into the device before they can start the engine. If the device detects alcohol, it will prevent the vehicle from starting. In addition, throughout the course of their drives, drivers will be prompted to blow into the device periodically to ensure they do not drink alcohol after they start the car. 

A driver subject to the Law typically has his or her ignition interlock device installed after serving a twelve to eighteen month license suspension. Thirty days prior to the end of the suspension, PennDOT will mail the driver a Restoration Requirement Letter, which includes an application for the Ignition Interlock License and a list of ignition interlock providers. There is an application fee that varies depending on the type of driver’s license. 

Licenses for Ignition Interlock Drivers

Ignition Interlock Licenses have a different appearance than a normal driver’s license. They have a red banner and contain the words "limited license." There is also a small red map of Pennsylvania in the lower right hand corner that contains the words “ignition interlock.” The license prohibits the driver from using a vehicle that is not equipped with an approved ignition interlock device. You can see an image of an ignition interlock driver's license on the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's Ignition Interlock Fact Sheet.

Installation of Ignition Interlock Devices

In order to get ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles, drivers must complete a DL-21SC form, which identifies the vehicles they own. This form is filed even when a driver does not own any vehicles. The ignition interlock device must then be installed by an authorized installation service center, which leases the device to the driver. Generally speaking, the ignition interlock device must remain on the vehicle for one year from the date of restoration, and the approximate cost to lease the device for a year is $1,200.00.

Ignition Interlock Law: Special Circumstances

In some instances, drivers who are required to install an ignition interlock system on all of their vehicles may apply to PennDOT for an economic hardship exemption. The exemption is based on a person’s income level and the size of their family. If an individual qualifies, they are only required to install an ignition interlock device on one of their motor vehicles. 

In addition, under certain circumstances, ignition interlock restricted drivers may operate employer-owned vehicles, but only in the course and scope of employment. Employees must notify their employers of the ignition interlock restriction and carry proof of employer notification on a PennDOT form. However, these employer-owned vehicles cannot be school buses/vehicles or large passenger vehicles.

Following the Law

It is important that drivers with Ignition Interlock Licenses not drive vehicles unless they are equipped with approved ignition interlock devices. If they do so, they could be subject to fines and imprisonment. In addition, for first offenses, the ignition interlock period is extended from the conviction date by twelve months. For second and subsequent offenses, the driver’s license is suspended for twelve months followed by an additional year of ignition interlock.

Thirty days prior to the expiration date of the Ignition Interlock License, the individual will receive a form DL-3731. This will allow them to apply for a normal, unrestricted license. 

For more information on Ignition Interlock Device and DUI Laws in Pennsylvania, please see PennDOT’s website.

Matthew Grosh is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Villanova University and practices in a variety of areas including DUI/ARD.

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