Recently, officials from federal agencies, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have been working to implement stricter laws for those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. One of the penalties being promoted by federal officials are “first-conviction interlock laws.”
Virginia is the most recent state to enact such laws, and it is now considered to have some of the harshest drunk driving laws in the country. First-time offenders are now required to have an interlock device installed in their vehicles. The interlock device requires drivers to take and pass a breathalyzer test before the vehicle can be started. Seventeen states enforce similar legislation, while states like Maryland require repeat offenders to install the device.
The administrator of the NHTSA is pleased with the recent law and is pushing for other states to follow Virginia’s example. The NHTSA hopes that $20.8 million in highway safety fund incentives will encourage states to require those convicted of driving under the influence to use the interlock device.
Law enforcement officials hope these laws will curb the number of drunk driver convictions. Statistics have shown that fatal crashes that include drunk drivers often involve drivers who have prior DUI convictions. In 2010, over 10,000 accidents nationwide involved alcohol and nearly 7,000 of those crashes included a driver with a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit. Of these accidents, almost 3,000 drivers had prior DUI convictions.
Interlock devices can be expensive for those convicted of driving under the influence. Currently, convicted drivers pay a $75 installation fee and almost $70 a month for monitoring services.
As states seek to implement harsher penalties for those arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, obtaining a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney is even more imperative. Consulting with a skilled attorney can ensure those facing such charges will establish a strong defense.
Source: The Washington Post, “Federal officials push for tougher state drunken-driving laws,” Ashley Halsey III, August 14, 2012.
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