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Ignition Interlock Use Spikes in Virginia

by | Aug 1, 2013

In the first 11 months of tougher DUI laws in Virginia, some 8,500 drivers have been forced to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.

Our D.C. DUI defense lawyers understand that the program mandates that even first-time DUI offenders have the device installed, following a conviction.

The court-ordered devices require the driver to breathe into a small alcohol-detection device each and every time before starting the vehicle. Some models require multiple readings while the vehicle is still in motion.

If a person’s blood-alcohol level is at 0.02 percent or higher, the device will prevent the vehicle from starting. Anyone found guilty of attempting to circumvent the device or tamper with it could be found guilty of a misdemeanor.

In Virginia, approximately 300 people were killed last year in alcohol-related crashes, which accounted for about one-third of all fatal crashes, according to the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program. Additionally, some 5,870 people were injured in alcohol-related wrecks, accounting for about 9 percent of all traffic injuries.

The National Conference of Legislators reports that Virginia is one of 15 states to have mandatory ignition interlock provisions for DUI offenders.

In D.C., DUI laws were bolstered earlier this year, to include a provision allowing first-time DUI offenders to be ordered to have the device installed. However, the decision is at the judge’s discretion; it’s not mandatory.

The Ignition Interlock Amendment Act, at the time it was signed into law in January, made some 1,800 convicted DUI offenders eligible to receive the device.

Drivers who receive the device are charged a hefty fee for installation. They also have to pay a monthly maintenance fee, about $100, so the systems can be regularly calibrated.

In 2011, the D.C. Attorney General’s Office reported some 32 crash fatalities, with about one-third of those attributed to drivers who had a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent. Roughly 9 percent of DUI prosecutions involve drivers who were allegedly intoxicated by illegal drugs.

D.C.’s expanded interlock ignition program came on the heels of the 2012 Comprehensive Impaired Driving and Alcohol Testing Program Emergency Act. this measure boosted minimum mandatory sentences for repeat DUI offenders and those who had high blood-alcohol levels. It also increased penalties for those driving impaired with children in the vehicle and for those who were operating commercial vehicles at the time of their arrest.

D.C. and Virginia are far from the only locations with recent focuses on the ignition interlock system. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign a measure that will strengthen an earlier law which makes it a felony to drive drunk with minors in the vehicle. The law mandated that all DUI offenders install ignition interlocks in their vehicles.

However, there was reportedly a loophole that allowed many offenders to circumvent the action by simply claiming falsely that they no longer owned a vehicle. The new law will require DUI offenders to state in court under oath that they no longer own a vehicle. If they are found to be lying, they could later face perjury charges.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC at 202-765-3175.