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Tougher punishment on the table for DUIs

12:35 AM, Feb 14, 2013   |    comments
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A bill in the state legislature would change the way many drivers convicted of DUI are punished.

House Bill 353 and its Senate companion bill requires everyone convicted of a DUI put an ignition interlock device in their car. The device will not allow the car to start if the person cannot pass a breathalyzer test.

Right now the interlock rule only applies to those who had a blood alcohol level of .15 or higher when they were arrested.

"It's a bill with good intent and it will likely help reduce DUIs on the road. The problem is the cost involved to the defendant and to the judicial system," said DUI specialist, attorney Steve Oberman.

Oberman says monitoring every person with a DUI will require a great deal of oversight by the government and could potentially create a financial burden.

The new bill also requires a photograph to be taken of the person while they are using the device to prevent people from cheating the system. Oberman says it would also make offenders keep the interlocks in their cars for at least a year.

He also says there are already many people who can't afford the ignition interlock.

"Generally that runs between $120 and $240 just to have it installed and then $90 to $130 dollars a month to maintain the operation," said Oberman.

He says there is a government fund to help those who can't afford the devices, but he doesn't think that will be enough to support everyone convicted.

"So what's going to happen in my opinion, is that people will ignore the law. They will drive illegally, end up in court, and ultimately in jail and it can have a big effect," he said.

But Mother's Against Drunk Driving doesn't see that as a valid argument.

"This is the consequence of the bad choice they've made and you have to pay the price for what you've done," said MADD spokesperson, Julie Strike.

MADD's research shows interlock systems reduce repeat offenders. The group cites the Center's for Disease Control statistic that interlocks reduce repeat offenses by 67%. They also claim it has proven to work in other states.

"We look at this as a great step toward our ultimate goal of eliminating drunk driving," said Strike.

They've taken their support to the state capitol. It's up to the legislature to make the call.

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