Amid calls by the National Transportation Safety Board to enact a strict nationwide policy that would mandate ignition interlock devices for all persons convicted of DUI, officials in Alabama have yet to determine how to enforce the law already on the books.
Birmingham DUI defense attorneys know that Alabama was the last state in the nation to enact ignition interlock laws, requiring them for those convicted of a second or subsequent DUI offense. First-time offenders could potentially be required to have the devices installed if their blood-alcohol level is measured at higher than 0.15 percent or if they have a minor under the age of 14 in the car at the time of arrest or if the crash injured another person or the driver refuses a sobriety test.
The NTSB is urging Congress and/or states to take action and require the device for all offenders, including those who have only been arrested once. Additionally, the agency is pushing for alcohol detection devices to be manufactured standard in all new vehicles, a measure that is unlikely to take hold anytime soon.
The Alabama law only applies to people arrested for DUI after Sept. 1, 2012. The devices are essentially in-car breathalyzer machines that are affixed onto offender's dashboards. The offender, once their license is reinstated and all fines paid, would for a period of time have to breathe into the machine before the vehicle would start. A BAC of higher than 0.02 percent would render the vehicle unable to start.
Once the vehicles starts, there are “rolling retests” that require additional samples throughout the trip, which is intended to cut down on incidents of fraud (i.e., having a sober person blow into the machine for you so the car will start).
If failures are recorded on the devices, the judge can order you to keep the device for a longer period of time.
The machines cost about $100, not including installation and monthly maintenance and calibration costs. All of this has to be paid by the offender – and this is in addition to whatever penalties you have already incurred as a result of your arrest or conviction.
But although the law was formally enacted in September, not many people have been sentenced to use them. In fact, the majority are those who have moved to Alabama after being sentenced to use the device in another state.
Part of the problem is many police agencies say state authorities have yet to give them instructions for training or enforcement regarding the device. Plus, there are some strong legal arguments that threaten to abolish the program.
For example, who can be held responsible if the device malfunctions? What if the device's accuracy – which has been called into question before – is challenged in court?
For these reasons, Alabama judges have been hesitant to order defendants to have the devices installed.
There is the possibility that the legislature could review the law again early next year to make changes.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Birmingham, call Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.
Enforcing Alabama's D.U.I. Ignition Interlock Law, Dec. 12, 2012, By Pat Peterson, WKRG
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Alabama DUI Laws “Lenient”? Don't Count on it!, Dec. 4, 2012, Birmingham DUI Lawyer Blog