PA Ignition Interlock information

What is an Ignition Interlock License?

PA Ignition Interlock laws are unique. PennDOT issues an ignition interlock licenses to drivers who have had their driving privileges revoked as a result of a DUI conviction or for refusal to submit to a chemical test. This type of license allows you to get back to driving, but with the restrictions of having an ignition interlock device installed in your car.  The ignition interlock laws can be found in Title 75, Section 3805 of the Pennsylvania Statutes.

What is Ignition Interlock?

A car equipped with ignition interlock prevents a car from starting until the person operating it blows into a breathalyzer-style device. If the device registers that the person’s BAC below a set threshold, the car will start, and if it is above the threshold, the car will not. Typically, the threshold is set at .025 BAC.

Who is eligible for the ignition interlock license?

If you are convicted of a first offense DUI or are entering the ARD program on a DUI, you are immediately eligible to reinstate your driving privilege with the ignition interlock license. If you have a prior conviction for DUI, you are eligible to reinstate your driving privilege after you have served half of your suspension. For example, if you have a 12-month suspension to serve, you will be eligible after 6 months. If you have an 18-month suspension to serve, you will be eligible after 9 months. You must keep the ignition interlock on your car for 1 year. There are certain circumstances that prevent you from obtaining an ignition interlock license including if you did not have a valid Pennsylvania Driver’s License to begin with.

How can I get an ignition interlock license?

30 days prior to your eligibility, you should receive a letter from PennDOT with your individual restoration requirements. The letter will include an application and information on vendors where you can get an ignition interlock device installed in your car. A government licensed dealer must install the device, which has to be government approved. First, PennDOT approves the application.  The ignition interlock company then certifies that they installed a device on all your vehicles. Then PennDOT will issue the license.

What if I own more than one car?

The PA Ignition Interlock law requires that you have ignition interlock devices installed on each car that you own. There is an exemption for economic hardship. If you can establish that installing ignition interlock on more than one car would cause economic hardship, the court may allow installation on only one vehicle. If PennDOT permits only one car with ignition interlock, you can only drive that car. 

What happens if I have to drive a company vehicle for my job?

If you have an ignition interlock restricted license and you are required to drive an employer owned vehicle for work, you do not need to have an igintion interlock installed on that car. This can only be done if your employer is aware that you have an ignition interlock restricted license and if you can carry proof of this knowledge while driving. An example of proof of knowledge would be a notarized letter from your employer. The exemption is not available if the company car is available for your private use.

Is it possible for Ignition Interlock Devices to Register a False Positive?

It is possible for these machines to register a false positive, particularly if the user had ingested spicy food or rinsed with mouthwash directly prior to blowing into the device. Luckily, the law provides for this possibility, allowing a person to try and blow into the machine again within 10 minutes of the false positive. If they register less than a .08 in that time period, they will not be cited for a violation of their restricted license. In order to avoid repeating a false positive, rinse your mouth with water after mouthwash use and take an antacid after ingesting spicy food. However, if you fail the retest within those ten minutes or after, you will not receive your declaration of compliance. PennDOT must receive the declaration of compliance before removing the ignition interlock restriction.

What happens if I drive a car without an Ignition Interlock device when I have my restricted license?

It is a misdemeanor offense if you drive a car without an ignition interlock when you have a restricted license. The penalties include up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. If you have a BAC greater than .025 or have controlled substances in your system, and are driving a car without an ignition interlock when you have a restricted license, you could be charged with a misdemeanor with a mandatory minimum 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

What happens if I drive my car with the Ignition Interlock but someone else blows into the device?

Tampering with your ignition interlock is also a crime. It is a misdemeanor offense if someone else blows into your device and you are driving, or if you otherwise tamper with the device. The offense carries a possible penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Will I lose my restricted license if I get a violation?

If you violate the conditions of your ignition interlock restricted license, PennDOT will add an additional year to your ignition interlock requirement.

How can I get my regular license back after having ignition interlock?

You can have the ignition interlock restrictions removed from your license have having the ignition interlock in your car for 1 year. Additionally, you must obtain a report certifying that you did not have any violations in the last two months, including any reading above.08, without a result below .08 within 10 minutes. If you have had violations in the last 2 months, you will not be able to have the ignition interlock restrictions removed until you have been violation free for two months. Also keep in mind that a violation will more than likely result in an additional year suspension. So, PA Ignition Interlock laws are strict.

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PA DUI attorney Justin J. McShane is the President/CEO of The McShane Firm, LLC - Pennsylvania's top criminal law and DUI law firm. He is the highest rated DUI attorney in PA as rated by Justin McShane is a double Board certified attorney. He is the first and so far the only Pennsylvania attorney to achieve American Bar Association recognized board certification in DUI defense from the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. He is also a Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Approved Agency.