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Should Ignition Interlocks Be Required for First Time DUI Offenders in Virginia?

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Various states, including Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska and Washington, have already enacted laws requiring first time DUI offenders to install ignition interlock systems into their vehicles.  These devices are similar to breathalyzers and are installed into the vehicle’s dashboard.  The engine will not start until the driver blows into the device and has a low reading (according to the programmed blood alcohol concentration, BAC).

Virginia has proposed a similar law that would require drivers who are convicted for a first time DUI offense to install an ignition interlock in Virginia, even if there was a low BAC at the time of arrest.  This proposed law would revise the state’s existing law that requires ignition interlocks for repeat DUI offenders and for those who were arrested with a high BAC in Virginia.

This proposed law, and similar proposed laws in other states, has been a topic of many intense debates, which is discussed in the article, “Ignition Interlocks for First Time Offenders is a Heated Topic.”  The critics of this law feel that the requirement of an ignition interlock for a first time DUI offender is unfair and basically gives the same punishment to that driver as someone who has multiple DUI offenses.  Opponents to the law believe that ignition interlocks do not solve the problem of drunk driving.  A former MADD president was even quoted as saying that the drunk driving problem has been reduced to “a hard core of alcoholics who do not respond to public appeal.”

Advocates of the law have cited a 2008 study by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, which showed that interlock devices in New Mexico reduced the number of repeat DUI offenses by about two-thirds in the state.  However, critics believe that this decline could also be contributed to other factors, such as education programs.

If laws, such as the one being proposed in Virginia, are passed, many feel that judges will not have the ability to distinguish between drivers who have had a few drinks and barely go over the legal limit and those who go way over.

Category: General

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