New sentencing standards coming for DUI offenders

HARRISBURG, Pa. – New sentencing standards for those convicted of driving under the influence are set to take effect next month.

Under Act 33, signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf in 2016, first-time DUI offenders who blow a .10 or greater in a sobriety test will be required to install an ignition interlock in their vehicle instead of having their license suspended for one year. The law also allows repeat offenders, whose licenses are automatically suspended for one year, to apply for an ignition interlock halfway through the suspension.

“We have approximately 8000 individuals that this is going to apply to,” Eileen Lee of the PA DUI Association said. “I think that once these individuals get the interlock, they’ll hopefully not continue their behaviors.”

The device does not come cheap. Lee estimated it costs between $800 and $1,300 to purchase and install, which is in addition to the penalties and fees DUI offenders pay as a result of the offense. Those who cannot afford it can apply to PennDOT to cover the cost.

Some defense attorneys have convinced judges to continue hearings for their clients until after the law takes effect on August 25.

“The interlock should be an option for everybody from day one,” said Tim Barrouk, an attorney with The McShane Firm, which specializes in DUI cases, said. “That way we know when people who are driving with multiple offenses are driving and not doing so under the influence.”

One of the goals of the changes is to make sure offenders can continue to be productive members of society.

“They found it very difficult to continue working,” Lee said. “A lot of them expressed their concern about the effect on their families not having the driver’s license, not being able to take their kids to sporting events, so it has an impact.”