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DUI-related laws get attention from Pennsylvania lawmakers

Driving under the influence (DUI) laws continue to evolve in Pennsylvania, a trio of them - two currently in place and the third still in discussion among lawmakers - have been gaining attention the past several months. First, let's provide a primer on DUI laws.

In Pennsylvania, any vehicle driver 21 or older with blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent faces a DUI charge. Enhanced penalties are in place for people whose BACs range from 0.10 to 0.159 percent and for amounts that are 0.16 percent or higher. If you're under 21 - an age that's illegal to drink alcohol - you may be charged with DUI with a BAC of 0.02 percent.

Ignition interlock law goes into effect

In August, a new law took effect that targets first-time and repeat DUI offenders who now must have an ignition interlock system installed in their vehicle. The system prevents a person under the influence of alcohol from operating the vehicle. The person is required to blow into the device before starting the vehicle. If the device detects alcohol, it will prevent the vehicle from starting.

The person required to have the ignition interlock system in place must bear the estimated cost of $1,000 to lease the device. People are required to have the system in place on their vehicle for a year after the driver's license has been restored.

Law imposes steep fees for refusing blood-alcohol test

On Jan. 11, a revised state law went into effect and will impose a fee to people who refuse to submit to a blood-alcohol test. As a result of the revised DUI law, drivers who refuse a blood-alcohol test such as a breathalyzer test, and are later convicted and lose their license must pay a "restoration fee" of up to $2,000 for their license.

The fee is $500 for the first time a person refuses to take the test; $1,000 for the second time; and $2,000 for the third time and after.

Bill being discussed targets repeat offenders

Finally, a new billwill head to the Pennsylvania General Assembly's full Senate. In December, the Senate Transportation Committee unanimously approved a bill that calls for harsher penalties for DUI repeat offenders.

If passed, the new bill sets some stricter guidelines, including increasing the minimum sentence for homicide by motor vehicle, and increases sentencing provisions for a number of DUI-related charges when the driver is unlicensed or under suspension.

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