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McDonnell Signs Law Requiring Ignition Interlocks for First-Time DUI Offenders

Law goes into effect July 1.

RICHMOND (Capital News Service) — Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed legislation that will require first-time DUI offenders in Virginia to install a Breathalyzer in their vehicle to prevent them from driving while intoxicated.

The governor signed House Bill 279 on Wednesday. As a result, beginning July 1, all Virginians convicted of DUI will have to have an ignition interlock installed in their vehicle. Currently, that requirement applies only to repeat offenders or first-time offenders with blood alcohol content higher than 0.15.

Virginia will "join just 15 other U.S. states in requiring this proven effective technology for all persons convicted of drunk driving," Kurt Erickson, president of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, said Thursday. His group campaigns against drunken driving.

Under the legislation, if a court requires the installation of an ignition interlock system, the clerk will file a copy of the order with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. This order would become part of the offender’s restricted driver’s license.

Within 30 days of the court order, DUI offenders would have to provide proof that the ignition interlock system has been installed. The court reserves the right to revoke the offender’s driving privilege for failing to install the system on time or have it properly monitored and calibrated.

"This change now means that everyone who gets convicted of DUI will be required to have the ignition interlock device," said Theo Stamos, commonwealth's attorney for Arlington County and the city of Falls Church. "That definitely makes first-time convictions even more onerous for drivers and is presumably a deterrent to driving drunk at all -- with any BAC, low or high."

She added: "It seems that every year the Legislature has a flurry of amendments to the DUI statute, and this apparently won approval."

Mothers Against Drunk Driving supported the legislation.

“This is lifesaving legislation that MADD has been working to get passed for six years,” said Chris Konschak, manager of the Virginia office of MADD.

People convicted of their first DUI offense are less likely to reoffend if they have to install an ignition interlock on their vehicles, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Opponents of drunken driving predict that the recidivism rates will drop significantly.“Ignition interlocks have the ability to stop a person from driving drunk,” Konschak said. “They also have a deterrent effect on potential drunken drivers.”

The American Beverage Institute lobbied McDonnell to veto the bill, according to the Virginian-Pilot. That trade association argued the punishment was unnecessary and would punish anyone who has had "one sip" over the legal limit of 0.08, the Pilot reports.

Patch Editor Jason Spencer contributed to this report.

Ann H Csonka March 11, 2012 at 06:02 AM
At least Gov. McDonnell signed a worthwhile bill that could save lives, instead of obsessing about controlling women's lives and health options.
Carol Lewis March 11, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Ann, I quite agree!
Richard Plocica March 11, 2012 at 10:29 PM
It is cleverly disguised prohibition and more money for the DMV. Now with the interlock installed everyone in the family has to learn to use it and cannot have ANY drink. It does not turn off the ignition at 0.08 but at 0.0001 or any reading. Another $90 a month burden to people charged and already paying thousands of dollars. MADD wants to have them installed on ALL cars but the manufacturers have not been able to come up with a realible way to keep other contaminants like perfume from triggering or locking it out let alone at a sane level. I suspect the added financial burden and Fairfax zero tolerance already will lead to a lot of former DUIers driving without a license. Then they are completley outside the law - similar to the zero tolerance on speeding in rural soutern VA in the 1970s led to the same thing - a large percentage of drivers who lost their license for speeding drivng to stores and work unlicensed and uninsured so the insured ended up paying for it in the long run. BTW - 0.08 is not drunkedness it was the result of the Congressional committee not being able to agree on 0.15 or 0.16 which is, so in their brilliance they said make it half then MADD will be happy.
Jason Spencer March 11, 2012 at 11:10 PM
We'll have a Speak Out on this topic Monday morning with some information from the American Beverage Institute, which opposed the new law. Check back Monday morning and be sure to tell us what you think!

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