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Feds Want Expanded D.C. Ignition Interlock Program

by | Dec 12, 2012

The National Transportation Safety Board has formally recommended that all drivers who are convicted of DUI should be required to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles.

D.C. DUI lawyers know this would mean an expansion of the current ignition interlock policy here.

D.C. Code 50-2201.05a allows for ignition interlock devices may be required by a judge after a second or subsequent conviction. By contrast, there are many states that mandate that it MUST be used for those with a second or subsequent conviction or in cases where the individual was determined to have a BAC of 0.15 percent or 0.17 percent higher. Seventeen states even allow them for a first-time conviction, but typically only with the judge’s discretion and even then, only for a maximum six months.

The NTSB is pushing to have all 50 states and D.C. to require ignition interlocks as a condition to restore driving privileges to anyone convicted of a DUI – including first-time offenders.

If you aren’t familiar, these are pricey little devices that a judge can require you to install in your vehicle that act as a personal breathalyzer. If the breath sample provided exceeds the set BAC for the statutory limit (somewhere between 0.02 percent and 0.05 percent, depending on the state you’re in), the vehicle won’t start. Then randomly throughout your trip, the device will require you to submit more breath samples, in an effort to prevent any potential fraud.

In D.C., Section 311 of Title 18 of D.C. Municipal Regulations stipulates that the program may be used as a way for a person convicted of their second or subsequent DUI to have their driving privileges reinstated a year early. In order to qualify, offenders must:

  • Have completed at least 1 year of suspension;
  • Have the device installed by the proper vendor;
  • Not have any additional license suspensions pending;
  • Not have been convicted of causing injury or death while driving a vehicle;
  • Not have participated in a similar program in another jurisdiction within the last 5 years.

The NTSB says there has been a 2.5 percent drop nationally in alcohol-related vehicle fatalities, which they attribute to the ignition interlock program. Recently-released figures for 2011 showed that DUI fatalities dropped to 9,880, which is the first time in several decades that it has fallen below 10,000.

However, substantial programs have been raised regarding the program’s effectiveness and accuracy. Of particular concern to our D.C. DUI attorneys is that a positive reading on these devices could potentially result in a charge for probation violation. There have been reported cases where alcohol was detected by the interlock, and the individual went immediately to a hospital or police station for a comparison testing – and the interlock proved faulty.

In addition to expanding the interlock program, the NTSB is also calling for the development of standard alcohol detection devices in ALL new vehicles. These are sensors that would detect whether the driver has been drinking through both touch and breath systems.

The new recommendations come on the heels of a study indicating that impaired driving is the top cause of wrong-way crashes, which tend to be more fatal than other types of crashes.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights or fill out our online contact form. Visa, Mastercard and Discover cards accepted. Call 202-765-3175.