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French Required to Keep Breathalyzer Kits in Cars; Are We Next?

by | Jul 28, 2012

It seems like an enormous infringement on personal freedoms, particularly for those individuals who have never before been convicted of a crime.

And yet, French law now makes it mandatory for motorists – all motorists – to keep breathalyzer kits in their vehicles or face a fine.

D.C. DUI defense lawyers know that while the U.S. isn’t contemplating a measure exactly along these lines, what they are proposing with regard to mandatory ignition interlock may actually be a more severe infringement.

First, a little background on what France is doing:

The goal is to slash the number of alcohol-related deaths, which average about 4,000 in France each year. President Nicolas Sarkozy said he hoped the new law might save as many as 500 lives annually.

This new law goes into effect immediately and includes tourists and other foreigners, but there is a grace period until November to comply. After that point, anyone who is stopped and is found to be without a breathalyzer device in their vehicle can be fined 11 euros.

Motorists have a choice between an expensive electronic version, which could be used over and over again, or a cheaper chemical version, which could be used just once. Tens of millions of these kits will be needed, but there has been a significant shortage, which is why the French government is allowing this grace period of several months.

French police have said they will be conducting random checks to ensure motorists are complying.

The idea is that drivers who think they may be over the limit could check it themselves by blowing into the breathalyzer and measuring their blood alcohol content.

This is where the measure differs from what has been proposed in America: it isn’t mandatory.

We have a somewhat similar version of this law in the form of interlock ignition device statutes, which mandate personal breath test devices installed for those who have been convicted of a DUI. Whether it’s used for a first-time DUI offender or someone with multiple DUIs has been an issue left largely up to the states.

The devices are installed in the vehicle – at the driver’s expense – and must be used every single time in order for the vehicle to start.

So for some motorists, it’s already not a choice. Certain anti-alcohol groups have been lobbying Congress to enact a measure that would ensure all DUI offenders – including those convicted of just one offense – would be required to have the devices installed.

But there is a substantial amount of talk of taking it even further by having ignition interlock devices come standard with all newer model vehicles.

In fact, auto manufacturers are currently engaged in ongoing research with the National Highway Safety Administration to determine the feasibility and legality of such a measure.

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.