Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), legislators and other safety advocates are praising the House Public and Safety Homeland Security Committee for advancing the new bill that will expand the use of ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers. The bill is intended to reduce the number of 2nd, 3rd, or other multiple offenders from getting behind the wheel and potentially causing a serious accident or injury. While the law is a success for safety advocates, alleged drunk drivers should be wary that the new laws could severely restrict their rights.
Drunk driving deterrents, including harsh legislation to penalize drunk drivers, may have the additional consequences of penalizing individuals who have been wrongfully charged or overcharged for their actions. Our Birmingham drunk driving defense attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of individuals who have been arrested and charged with drunk driving. We understand the gravity of these charges and the severity of penalties faced by our clients. In addition to providing strategic defense, we are also dedicated to staying abreast of key legislative issues in Alabama and nationwide.
Under HB 381, the law that was advanced at a hearing in early February, interlock ignition devices will now be used as a penalty for all convicted drunk drivers, including first-time offenders who had a blood-alcohol content (BAC) over .08. Proponents of the law, including representatives of MADD have argued that first-time offenders should be forced to use interlock device systems to prevent drunk driving. The current law only requires interlock device systems for 2nd and 3rd time offenders.
The new bill was written by a 2013 legislative group focused on the implementation of this law to give first-time offenders the option of either six months on an ignition interlock device or 90 days with a suspended license. Advocates believe that the ignition interlock device will prevent recurring drunk driving offenses while also expanding the period that a driver is monitored or suspended. The law would coincide with laws in 20 other states that have similar penalties related to ignition interlock devices. Those in favor of ignition interlock device penalties have argued that they system has reduced drunk driving deaths by approximately 40% in states with first-offender ignition interlock device laws.
In Alabama, ignition interlock device systems have been required for repeat drunk driving offenders as well as for those convicted with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of over .15. Advocates of the new law argue that ignition interlock devices will more likely reduce drunk drivers on the road and be more effective than license suspension. Statistics indicate that 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers will continue to drive on a suspended license. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains that ignition interlock devices reduce repeat drunk driving accidents by 67 percent. Advocates for the new law argue that using an interlock ignition device system will help convicted drivers to learn how to drive sober.
While legislative and safety advocates may have good intentions, individuals facing drunk driving convictions should be aware of the penalties they may face. An interlock ignition device is an expensive and inconvenient restriction. If you have been accused or arrested for DUI, consult with an advocate as soon as possible to discuss your rights and defense options.