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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has struck down provisions of a state statute that require trial courts to oversee the installation of ignition interlock devices in motor vehicles owned by repeat drunken drivers. The justices in Commonwealth v. Mockaitis affirmed a lower court’s decision that the provisions violate the separation of powers doctrine. It said that the 5-0 ruling does not prevent the commonwealth’s executive branch from enforcing the remaining portions of the statute, Act 63 of 2000, on its own, Justice Ronald D. Castille wrote in the court’s opinion. Attorneys who have followed the case noted that in the nearly two years since the court first heard Mockaitis, legislative action has nearly resolved the issues addressed by the justices. Two strikes, and locked According to the opinion, the Mockaitis case stems from drunken driving charges filed against 19-year-old David Mockaitis, who pleaded guilty to his second driving under the influence (DUI) offense in the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas in October 2000. As a repeat offender, Mockaitis was ordered to have ignition interlock devices installed in all of the vehicles he owned. Trial courts have the option to order first-time DUI offenders to have ignition interlocks installed in their vehicles. Judges must impose them on all offenders with two or more DUI convictions after a one-year mandatory suspension of their driving privileges. The law mandates that the trial court notify the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation of the offender’s installation order, and that the department then receive certification of installation from the court before reinstating the offender’s driving privileges. Mockaitis moved to modify his punishment, arguing that Act 63 was unconstitutional. A three-judge panel from the Cumberland County trial court granted him partial post-sentence relief, deeming the interlock provisions of Act 63 unconstitutional on grounds of equal protection and separation of powers. The commonwealth appealed directly to the Supreme Court. The justices in Mockaitis chose to focus on the separation of powers objection to Act 63, reasoning that proper consideration of that issue would pre-empt disposition of the equal protection question.

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