California bills would mandate ignition interlocks in DUI cases

| 8/1/2008

With California state lawmakers scheduled to resume their work in Sacramento next week multiple measures that could draw consideration would mandate the use of ignition interlock devices for drunken drivers.

One bill under consideration in the Senate would require first-time offenders of the state’s drunken driving law to install ignition interlocks on their vehicles if they want to continue to drive. The Assembly already approved it.

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

Interlocks are hooked up to the ignitions of vehicles. 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, or 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 on 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 devices to allow offenders to drive to and from work or alcohol treatment.

Feuer’s bill – AB2784 – is in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Three more bills also address drunken driving. 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 bill – SB1388 – would require that certain offenders immediately install the devices on all the vehicles they own and keep the devices on the vehicles for one to three years. The rule would apply to those drivers who are convicted of driving a vehicle when their licenses have been suspended or revoked for drunken driving within the past 10 years.

One more 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.

SB1190, SB1361 and SB1388 are in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The Senate already approved them.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor