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Washington D.C. DUI Offenders Face Ignition Interlock for First-Time Offense

by | Mar 10, 2012

In a politicized push to appear tougher on drunk drivers, penalties for Washington D.C. DUI could soon become harsher.

Washington D.C. DUI attorneys have been closely following the nationwide debate, which is targeting first-time DUI offenders with an ignition interlock program.

As of right now, DUI offenders in Washington D.C. could be ordered by a judge to participate in the ignition interlock program, but only after a second or subsequent offense, according to statute 50-2201.05a. This would alter that requirement to mandate it for anyone convicted of just one DUI.

Interlock ignition devices work somewhat like a breathalyzer machine in that they measure a person’s blood alcohol content. Unlike the devices police use, however, these are affixed onto a person’s vehicle. If the machine measures alcohol in the person’s system, the car will not turn on.

Proponents say enacting this measure for a wider swath of offenders will curb the number of drunk drivers on the road. However, that’s not entirely true, as we’ll explore in a minute. The crux of the issue is that making it a mandate takes away a judge’s right to discern the facts of each individual case before ruling one way or another. This is a dangerous precedent in any area of law.

So where is this all coming from?

According to USA Today, a group that is identified as a “national road safety group” is pushing for this legislation. As it turns out, this group is actually the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  Any think tank funded by insurance agencies is out for the industry’s welfare – not your rights.

The institute said it studied the measure, and by extending this to first-time DUI offenders, recidivism rates will be reduced by up to 12 percent. However, the American Beverage Institute, which speaks on behalf of thousands of restaurants across the country, said that the recidivism figures are overplayed. Because while the device may reduce drunk driving for the time frame it’s actually on the vehicle, it’s not a long-term solution. Most states require the device be installed for six months. As soon as it’s off, recidivism is going to shoot back up. What’s more, the number of people who have been killed in drunk driving crashes has been decreasing since the 1980s. Between 2009 and 2010, the number of drunk driver fatalities dropped by another 5 percent.

Even the American Probation and Parole Association says that to implement the program across the board for all offenders is not only unnecessary, it’s going to be costly as well. They estimate it’s going to cost nearly half a billion dollars collectively across the country just to supervise this kind of program.

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, Master Card and Discover cards accepted. Call 202-765-3175.