Alabama was the 50th state in the country to adopt a law green-lighting the use of ignition interlock technology in vehicles belonging to those convicted of a DUI.
However, our Birmingham DUI defense lawyers know you probably haven't seen the devices around much yet, even though Sept. 1 marked the one-year anniversary of the state's program. That's because the state's Administrative Office of the Courts has been advising courts at both the county and state levels to hold off on implementation.
At issue is an unanswered question about where the money collected from court fees will go. There is apparently nothing in the new legislation that tells court officials how that money should be spent.
Until this question can be answered, the AOC's office is directing judges to wait. It's still possible that a judge could sidestep that request and issue the device anyway. That seems unlikely, but we don't know for sure because state officials aren't tracking it at this time.
In case you aren't familiar, ignition-interlock devices are machines that work very similar to the breathalyzers utilized by police departments across the country. Required as a condition for regaining one's license after a second or subsequent DUI conviction, the driver must have the device installed in his or her vehicle at his or her own expense.
Anytime a person wants to start the car, he or she must offer up a breath sample in the machine. If the device registers a blood-alcohol content of 0.02 percent or higher, the vehicle won't start.
The vehicle will then periodically continue to test the driver throughout the trip to ensure the driver is not drunk or that the machine was fooled by having a sober person blow into it just to get it started, only to have the intoxicated person then take the wheel.
Any attempts to start the vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of over 0.02 percent will be reported back to the judge, and could be grounds for a probation violation.
At issue for the courts right now is the $75 monthly court fee that defendants have to pay to maintain the devices. Officials know that most of the money is supposed to be funneled back into a fund that would provide indigent services for defendants who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford the device. But they aren't sure about the rest of it.
In order to have the question answered, lawmakers established the Alabama DUI Prevention & Ignition Interlock Council. Their first meeting is slated for this month.
There has been some criticism regarding whether the devices will be effective in getting repeat DUI offenders off the road. The reality is, they probably won't. However, some say it is an option that allows those without a history of intoxicated driving to be afforded an option to get to and from work.
Still, it isn't mandated for first-time offenders and should in no way be considered a slap on the wrist. The truth of the matter is that when you begin tallying the monthly cost to have these devices installed and maintained, most defendants find that it is a financial burden.
The best way to avoid it is to avoid a conviction. That's where we can help.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Birmingham, call Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.
Funding questions, equipment availability delay DUI program, Sept. 22, 2013, By Marty Roney, Montgomery Advertiser
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Birmingham DUI Convictions May Hinge on Reasonable Suspicion, Oct. 31, 2013, Birmingham DUI Defense Lawyer Blog