Alabama DUI Defense Watch: Feds Lobby for Tougher DUI Sanctions

Federal officials are pushing a number of states to enact stricter DUI enforcement legislation. lifelock.jpg

Our Birmingham DUI lawyers know that starting in the fall, interlock ignition devices will be mandatory for repeat DUI convictions and even for first-time offenders if they blow over a 0.15. Alabama is the last state to enact such a measure.

Meanwhile, 17 other states have enacted measures that require ALL first-time DUI offenders to install interlock ignition measures, and advocacy groups have been crusading for more reforms, based on federal research indicating that drunk drivers involved in deadly crashes were four times more likely to have had a prior conviction for DUI.

A top official with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been quoted by The Washington Post as saying that having interlock ignition for first-time offenders is good policy, and his agency is putting pressure on state legislators to up the ante.

In fact, his agency has $21 million in its coffers dedicated solely to forcing this issue. Alabama has not been immune to the economic downturn, and that kind of money can be tempting when lawmakers are grappling with whether to cut police, firefighters, school expenses and more.

Their efforts are backed by advocacy groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

And then just recently, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley awarded nine grants totaling $250,000 to law enforcement agencies to help prepare for Labor Day.

Those funds will cover overtime pay and special details for sheriff’s deputies patrolling between Aug. 17 and Sept. 3. It’s part of a national, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign. DUI checkpoints are going to be a major part of this initiative.

With ignition interlock systems, the cost of the devices – approximately $75 to have them installed and another $70 each month – would fall squarely on the DUI offender. Penalties for a first-time DUI offense in Alabama are already steep, with maximum fines standing at around $2,000, plus the possibility of up to a year in jail and a 90-day license suspension.

Still, there isn’t a great deal of evidence proving these devices are effective. For one, they haven’t been around quite long enough to have any meaningful analysis.

The machines generally prevent a vehicle from starting if a person’s blood alcohol level is above 0.02 percent. The legal limit in Alabama, as it is in most states, is 0.08 percent.

Still, there has been some resistance by other states to enact stricter measures. In Maryland, for example, a bill that would have required ignition interlock for all DUI offenders died in committee earlier this year. A compromise that would have excluded a number of offenders who received probation from having to install the device was rejected by a number of state officials, which meant the bill was scrapped.

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