|FIRST VA DUI WILL BRING IGNITION LOCK|
2012-04-19 On July 1, 2012 Virginia will begin enforcing one of the toughest drunken-driving penalties in the nation. It will require thousands of first-time convicted DUI offenders to install blood-alcohol testing devices that can lock the ignition in their cars. Offenders will have to pay a fee of about $500 for a typical six-month installation and rental of the device.
Such groups as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Washington Regional Alcohol Program say that Virginia’s 274 alcohol-related road deaths and more than 5,500 injuries in 2010 are unacceptably high despite Virginia having the toughest penalties for drunk-driving.
I believe that the devices are too severe a penalty for offenders at the legal blood alcohol limit of 0.08. The new law may make things worse in that more defendants will insist on going to trial which will create a greater workload for Virginia's General District Court dockets.
In Virginia, Defendant's who are found guilty of drunken-driving have the right to appeal to Circuit Court. They will receive a trial de novo which will give Defendant's two "bites at the apple" as they will learn the weaknesses of the Commonwealth's case during the General District Court trial. Virginia’s General Assembly easily passed the ignition interlock bill this session, and Governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) signed it into law last month.
Virginia’s current law requires only repeat drunken-driving offenders or those convicted with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or higher to have an ignition interlock device in their car.
I think it’s going to unfairly impact clients who cannot afford the rent the interlock devise, as opposed to a wealthier person who can pay for it and continue to drive to work, school and religious services. There is going to be a substantial increase in people who are going to choose to drive without licenses. The law does not have a provision for the state to reduce or waive the fee for those who cannot afford to rent the interlock devise, as it does for the VASAP alcohol-education program.
“The implementation is going to be much more difficult than predicted,” said Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax). “People had to wait a long time for their interlocks when we first did this.”
There are only four interlock vendors in the state of Virginia and I seriously doubt that they will be able to have sufficient equipment to handle an additional ten to fifteen thousand interlock cases per year. Although a provision in the new law allows those accused of DUI to schedule an appointment with a vendor before trial; if convicted they may have to wait for an extended period of time before an interlock is available.
This year’s legislative session was not the first time the bill had been proposed. Supporters said relaxing some provisions — including one requiring the installation of ignition interlock devices on every car an offender owns and new research on the impact of the devices — helped sway votes.
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