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Washington D.C. DUI Interlock Devices For 1st Offenses May Soon Be Reality

by | May 25, 2012

Washington D.C DUI lawyers know that the District’s ignition interlock program has been mandated for the last two years for repeat offenders.

Now, legislators want to enforce its use for first-time D.C. DUI offenders.

Media reports are indicating this is an “opportunity” for first-time offenders to have their licenses restored sooner than they might otherwise.

What they aren’t reporting, though, is that this decision largely stems from the dangling carrot of federal money for governments that enact laws that expand use of the program to first-time DUI offenders.

If you’ve never heard of this device, here’s a brief introduction:

Many police departments use Breathalyzer machines that a person blows into, and out spits a result indicating that person’s blood alcohol. D.C., of course, has suspended use of its Breathalyzers amid widespread concerns of inaccuracy.

The ignition interlock devices work in much the same way, except they are installed into the vehicles of individuals who have been convicted of drunk driving offenses. If a person shows anything over a 0.025 (the legal limit is 0.08), the vehicle won’t start.

In D.C., they’ve been around since 2010, and they are available to certain repeat offenders at a cost of roughly $150 a month. It is positive in the sense that allows for a 1-year reduction of the license revocation period for some repeat offenders.

However, mandating it for first-time offenders who want to get their licenses back, simply for the sake of federal money seems unfair.

For one thing, it is quite expensive. Times are tough for everyone right now, and $150 every month is a hefty price for most people. This would ensure that those in lower income brackets would not get a fair shake.

Secondly, just like the breathalyzers used by the Metropolitan Police Department, there have been some concerns raised about the accuracy of ignition interlock devices.

And thirdly, there hasn’t been any solid evidence that these costly machines are actually effective. Sure, studies by Mothers Against Drunk Driving indicate they have driven down repeat conviction rates by upwards of 90 percent. But MADD is a biased organization.

In fact, a study by the California Department of Motor Vehicles found that interlock ignition devices actually found that there was no real impact in reducing DUI arrests or convictions following the installation of the devices.

And what the American Beverage Institute has reported is that while having an ignition interlock device in a vehicle may be an immediate deterrent, in the long-term, it does nothing to ensure a repeat DUI offense.

What’s more, it’s expensive – and not just to convicted drunk drivers. The American Probation and Parole Association (certainly not an advocate for offenders) estimates that it’s going to cost all 50 states and D.C. an eye-popping $430 million to supervise ignition interlock programs. The federal high safety grants that would be offered to states that implement the program could offset those costs, but it would basically be a wash. And if a program has proven ineffective, then what’s the point?

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.