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Feds want states to use ignition interlocks in all DUI cases

Posted on in DUI

In 2010, California began a limited pilot project in driving under the influence cases to test whether ignition interlocks should be used in sentencing for a DUI conviction. The pilot project is being conducted in four counties, and is expected to run through 2016. Sources say that many states are testing the devices in a variety of ways, and roughly 15 states require ignition interlocks in all DUI cases, even for first-time offenders.

Now lawmakers in the nation's capitol are seeking to force states to mandate the use of ignition interlocks in all DUI cases. Ignition interlocks generally are small devices that attach inside the car. The devices act as a portable Breathalyzer-like machine that drivers must use to start the car. The machines come with steep installation fees and monthly charges. If a driver fails the breath test, the car will not start.

Representatives in the U.S. House introduced a measure that would encourage states to require interlocks in all DUI cases. The measure was unveiled Tuesday as part of a transportation spending bill. The federal government cannot tell states directly what criminal laws to pass in individual states, but Congress can dangle money as a carrot to get their way.

The transportation measure would offer increased access to federal funds to states that decide to mandate ignition interlocks in all DUI cases. The American Beverage Institute, a restaurant industry trade organization, is opposed to the federal interference with state laws. The trade group says that it would essentially deny states the authority to decide for themselves how to apply state DUI laws.

A spokeswoman for the group says the federal incentives of the measure would "deny judges the ability to distinguish between a driver one sip over the limit and high-BAC, repeat offenders." The trade group is not opposed to ignition interlocks to promote public safety, but supports many state decisions that have used the devices to "target the hard-core offenders."

A proposal similar to the House bill is expected to be introduced in the U.S. Senate.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Drunk drivers: Congress gets behind breath-test ignition devices," Richard Simon, Jan. 31, 2012

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