On December 29, 2014, California Sen. Jerry Hill introduced a bill requiring first time DUI offenders to use ‘Ignition Interlocks’ devices that block a car from starting if a driver’s breath indicates a blood alcohol level (BAC) higher than a pre-set limit. Hill views the reduction of multiple DUIs (recidivism) as the key to reducing DUI-related fatalities and injury.

If the new bill introduced by the senator passes, it would mandate a five-year pilot program that requires installation of the ignition interlock on DUI offenders’ vehicles for six months for the first offense, with an escalating period for each subsequent conviction. Drivers would not lose their licenses while using the device, which Hill said has been a major stumbling block to the state’s current voluntary program. Under current California law, only about 20 percent of persons who have a choice of installing the device or driving on a restricted license opt for the device, he said.

The current pilot program, which began in 2010 and expires this year, requires vehicle locks for five months for first offenders and up to four years for repeat offenders. Ignition interlock devices force motorists to submit a breath sample before starting their car, then provide additional samples once they’re driving.

Though first time offenders represent the majority of convictions, drivers that have one or more DUIs still make up one-third of DUI convictions. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies indicate that recidivist drivers (those with multiple DUI offenses) are eight times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than drivers involved in fatalities who had not been drinking. Advocates of vehicle locks say laws requiring their use have proved successful. Since passing ignition interlock legislation, Arizona, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oregon have seen DUI deaths drop by 35-43 percent, according to Hill’s office.

Existing California law allows a judge to suspend a person’s driver’s license for 10 years after a third DUI conviction.

Daniel R. Perlman, Esq.

Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman