State House committee passes bill to toughen DUI penalty

| Monday, March 21, 2016, 5:33 p.m.

The state House Transportation Committee approved a bill Monday that would require convicted first-time drunken drivers to purchase an ignition interlock as part of their sentence.

The proposal, Senate Bill 290, previously passed the full Senate with unanimous bipartisan agreement.

The measure will go to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

State crime data show there were 46,210 DUI arrests in Pennsylvania in 2015, including 3,284 in Allegheny County. The data did not indicate how many of those were first-time offenders.

Before passing the proposal, the House committee added language allowing police officers to charge drivers from other states if they are not driving with an ignition interlock and are supposed to have one, among other technical changes.

If the House passes the bill, it will require a concurrent vote from the Senate before Gov. Tom Wolf could sign it into law.

The bill would require the DUI defendant, if found guilty, to pay for installation of the ignition interlock device and lease it for a year. The device, under current law, is only required for second and subsequent offenses.

It costs about $1,200 to lease for a year, according to PennDOT. Hardship exemptions are available in some cases.

Drivers are also issued a special license that says they require an ignition interlock.

A news conference is scheduled Tuesday by citizen activists of PA Parents Against Impaired Driving, who are pushing for the bill's final passage.

Melissa Daniels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8511 or mdaniels@tribweb.com.

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