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DUI offenders face tough choice

Motorists facing drunk driving charges could be stuck with long term consequences. Now, under a new Pennsylvania law, motorists charged with drunk driving face a difficult choice. They may plead guilty and agree to drive with an ignition interlock device. This device measures the alcohol content of a driver's breath and will prevent the vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Alternatively, drivers can avoid a conviction by participating in an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. This diversion program allows individuals to avoid a conviction and have their criminal record expunged. However, participation in this program requires a license suspension for 30 to 90 days. These programs usually include payment of a fine, completion of classes and the driver must undergo monitoring.

A new law will become effective on October 20 that will give drivers who choose ARD the option of installing an ignition interlock device in their car and they will be allowed to continue to drive. Until this change takes effect, motorists must decide whether it is more important to continue to drive or avoid the consequences of having a criminal record.

ARD has other risks. Motorists with a commercial drivers' license may have that license suspended for one year if they take part in ARD. Some colleges also treat this diversion program as an admission of guilt and penalize students. However, changes to the law may provide some relief to drivers. Currently, a person's license will be suspended for one year for refusing to give a blood test after being arrested for a DUI. At the end of August, drivers can apply for an ignition interlock device after serving six months of this suspension.

Motorists facing a DUI charge should seek immediate legal advice. An attorney may challenge evidence or fight to lower penalties.

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