DUI charge in Connecticut could mean ignition lock under new bill

HARTFORD, Conn. – Individuals charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in Connecticut could soon be required to install blood-alcohol testers in their motor vehicles, even if they’ve never been convicted of DUI before.

The state’s General Assembly passed a bill that requires 1st time DUI offenders to pay for the installation of the device in their motor vehicle and monitoring of an ignition interlock device; the person has to pay $275 in fees including monitoring expenses.

The bill is awaiting the signature of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the bill closes a gaping loophole in Connecticut’s law by making it compulsory for thousands more DUI offenders to use the devices, which is a more effective way of coping with drunken driving than license suspensions.

Communications manager for the national MADD organization, Carol Ronis said, “What we know is, if we get someone on the first offense, we start the process of taking the alcohol out of the car, separating driving and drinking”.

He started an effort in 2006 to encourage states to pass bills making ignition interlock devices mandatory for all offenders.

Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended states adopt ways to ensure their use is extended.

In Connecticut and 21 other states, there are laws requiring ignition interlocks to measure a driver’s BAC level after a 1st DUI conviction but that doesn’t mean the individual hasn’t offended prior to that.

The existing Connecticut law permits 1st time DUI offenders to attend an alcohol education program and their driver’s license is suspended from 90 days to a year. After the individual completes the programs and the requirements, his/her offense history is cleaned from the record. Some other states have similar diversion programs for 1st time DUI offenders which MADD is targeting.

A driver’s license would be suspended for 45 days, under Connecticut’s bill. But after that, the offender will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in the motor vehicle for a time period that can be different from case to case. The penalties for individuals living out of the state will be similar to in-state operators, except their driving privilege as opposed to the license, will be suspended. That driving privilege will not be restored until the individual installs and maintains an interlock device for the period as ordered, said DMV.

William “Skip” Church of Madison, whose son Dustin died in a DUI accident, said he’ prefer an immediate installation of the interlock device, referencing the statistics that almost two-thirds of DUI offenders still drive on a suspended license. But lawmakers have been hesitant to scrap license suspensions. William was a volunteer with Connecticut Mothers Against Drunk Driving. He said, “Most of them view suspension as punishment — we’ve got to keep the punishment. But if the punishment doesn’t work and people are still driving drunk and people are getting killed, it really isn’t punishment”. According to him, it is believed that 1st time DUI offenders made a simple mistake and will never get behind the wheel drunk but it is not true.

An estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 1st time DUI offender has likely driven under the influence more than 80 times before being taken into custody by the police.

According to the Staff attorney David McGuire, the Connecticut chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union will check the situation but hasn’t raised constitutional concerns about the bill and the main reason for that is the group thinks that driving is a right of every individual; it is not actually a privilege.

In 2013, almost 6,500 first-time offender’s driving licenses were suspended by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

If the bill is signed into law by Malloy, it will be implemented from July 2015.

According to DMV’s legal director, Sharon Geanuracos, a large number of 1st-time DUI offenders will install the device in their vehicles and will instead allow their licenses to remain suspended. “There are a lot of people who just drop off the face of the earth and don’t ever go back to the DMV to get their licenses restored”.

News Source: www.DeseretNews.com

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