California bills advance; would mandate ignition interlocks in DUI cases

| 7/8/2008

Multiple measures on the move in the California statehouse would mandate the use of ignition interlock devices for drunken drivers.

The Assembly voted 75-1 to advance one bill to the Senate that would allow first-time offenders of the state’s drunken driving law to install ignition interlocks on their vehicles if they want to continue to drive.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, the legislation would authorize that people have ignition interlocks installed on their vehicles to get back behind the wheel sooner if they were found guilty of driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher.

Once such a device is installed, a driver must blow into a mouthpiece, which measures the amount of alcohol on a person’s breath. If the driver blows clean, the car will then start; if not, it won’t budge.

In addition, the devices often require drivers to re-blow in the machine after a designated period of time, to ensure that they have not convinced someone else to blow into the mouthpiece for them, and to ensure that they haven’t been drinking since getting behind the wheel.

Advocates for stricter drunken driving rules cite statistics that show drivers who are convicted of driving while intoxicated usually have driven drunk 87 times before being caught.

There are 46 states that require the devices in some cases. In California, judges have authority to require use of the interlocks to allow offenders to drive to and from work or alcohol treatment programs.

The Senate has approved three more bills. The first measure – SB1361 – would require that offenders submit proof of installation of ignition interlocks in order to have their driving privileges reinstated.

The second Senate bill – SB1388 – would require that certain offenders immediately install the devices on all owned vehicles for one to three years. The rule would apply to those drivers who are convicted of driving a vehicle when his or her license has been suspended or revoked for drunken driving within the past 10 years.

One more Senate-approved bill – SB1190 – would lower the threshold for when judges can require interlock devices as punishment for drunken driving from 0.20 percent to 0.15 percent.

Feuer’s bill – AB2784 – has moved to the Senate Appropriations Committee. SB1190, SB1361 and SB1388 are in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor