Concerns raised about effectiveness of tougher DUI penalties

Expanding use of ignition interlocks may spread resources too thin, critics say

A California lawmaker has proposed expanding a four-county DUI pilot program to the whole of California. Senate Bill 61, if it passes, would require anybody convicted of driving under the influence in the state to have an ignition interlock device installed in any car they operate, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. While supporters of the bill say the measure will help reduce drunk driving accidents, critics contend that the proposal is too costly, overly intrusive, and may prove ineffective.

Tougher DUI penalties

The bill, which is based on a pilot program currently underway in four California counties, would require first-time DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device for six months, while repeat offenders would have the devices installed for at least a year. The cost of installing and leasing the devices would be borne by the offenders themselves, although financial assistance would be provided for those who cannot afford them.

Proponents of the measure say ignition interlock devices are far more effective than license suspensions at lowering drunk driving accident rates. They note that repeat offenders account for about a third of DUI convictions in California every year, a statistic that mandatory ignition interlock devices could help bring down.

Devices intrusive and ineffective

The measure is not without its critics, however. As the Sacramento Bee recently noted, a report into the pilot program found its effectiveness to be "inconclusive." Critics also say that mandating ignition interlock devices for all DUI offenders is a disproportionate punishment since it treats all DUI offenders as basically the same. Somebody who had a blood-alcohol content level of 0.8, for example, would suffer the same punishment as someone who had a BAC level over twice the legal limit.

Sound public policy is to promote laws that will be obeyed. Most persons convicted of DUI are financially strapped by having to pay for DUI school, increased insurance rates and license reinstatement fees charged by the DMV. Add to this stress the high cost of complying with an interlock order, and many people will simply elect or have no choice but to drive without a license. When that happens, the Legislature will have done nothing but to create more uninsured and unlicensed motorists who would otherwise obey the law, but cannot afford to.

Only about 30 percent of DUI offenders currently ordered to install the devices actually do so. Analysts say instead of spreading resources too thin by requiring all DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock, money may be better spent by focusing on repeat offenders.

DUI defense

People convicted of a DUI already face severe penalties in California. While some may decry a license suspension as a "light" punishment, for those who have lost their licenses while being hit with fines and jail time, such punishments can have a devastating impact on your lives. Facing a charge of DUI should be taken extremely seriously and necessitates the assistance of an experienced criminal DUI lawyer. The right attorney can protect your rights and may be able to prevent a criminal charge and loss of driver's license from damaging your reputation and quality of life.

Many people must drive in order to survive. If you are arrested for DUI in California, your license to drive will be taken away and replaced with a temporary license that is only good for 30 days before that license is automatically suspended. You will have only ten days from the date of arrest in which to demand a hearing from the DMV. An experienced DUI defender can often get your privilege to drive reinstated. So it's important to find a lawyer within ten days of your arrest. A qualified DUI lawyer will demand an in person hearing, where your defenses to license suspension can be effectively shown.