Fact: Alabama is one of only three states that don't yet require ignition interlocks for convicted DUI offenders. Although the other 47 states in the Union have some type of drunk driving laws on the books that call for ignition interlocks for repeat drunk driving offenders, we still do not. Could this change? You bet.
More and more, these breath testing devices have become popular with courts and legislators around the country. Backed by groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), 11 states now make the installation of an ignition interlock mandatory on the vehicles belonging to anyone convicted of a DUI, including first-time offenders. Hawaii was number 11. MADD has been lobbying hard for the past three years to have all 50 states require the devices for every driver convicted of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
For use, iginition interlocks are wired into a car's electrical system. Before the car can be started, the driver must blow into a plastic tube attached to the unit — just like a breathalyzer. If the device detects a blood alcohol content above (typically) 0.025 percent, the car will not start. The units also require random retests, which supposedly prohibits a drunk driver from having a sober person blow into the device to start the car, then getting in and driving off.
Interlocks usually cost about $75 to install, while the driver must pay a similar amount every month after that while the device is attached to the car. The unit must also be recalibrated every couple months or the vehicle will shut down.
Many states have used ignition interlocks as a part of their sentencing for years now. Some states, like Kansas, have seen the number of ignition interlock installations increase as that state's legislature has kept tightening its DUI laws. According to reports, Kansas has had a 45-percent increase in the number of interlocks installed due to DUI convictions from a year ago.
The push around the country is to help prevent repeat DUI offenses. Do they work? Apparently so, if you believe the information coming from proponents of the devices. According to a MADD spokesperson, ever since New Mexico enacted its interlock laws in 2002, the rate of drunk drivers re-offending in that particular state has decreased by 65 percent.
Are we next? All I can say is that Alabama is one of the lone holdouts, joined by Vermont and South Dakota. These three states are yet to have ignition interlocks written into their drunk driving laws.
As an Alabama DUI defense attorney based in Birmingham, I can tell you that a drunk driving conviction, even for a first-time offense, will most certainly be costly and can often be detrimental to both your career and your private life. Having a mandatory ignition interlock as an added condition of one's sentence for a DUI offense would only compound the inconvenience and stigma of a conviction. This is why I constantly encourage people accused of driving under the influence to seek a qualified drunk driving lawyer for their defense.
There's no telling how soon we might see similar legislation in our own backyard, but with the success MADD has had to date, Alabama drivers could see ignition interlocks sooner than later.
Legislature breathes life into revision of Kansas DUI law, LJWorld.com, June 15, 2009