Interlock Device for First-Time DUI Offenders?

Those arrested for driving under the influence in California, even as a first-time offender, could be forced to install an “ignition interlock device” in their car under a new bill.

The devices, installed on vehicle dashboards, act like breathalyzers, allowing the car to start only after the mechanism receives a clean test. Senate Bill 61, approved by the Senate's public safety committee this week, now heads to the appropriations committee.

Proponents say the bill needs to become law because repeat DUI offenders account for one out of every three convictions.

“Families are devastated by this, and still we allow it. I don’t want to say we condone it, but the penalty is just not severe enough” said Jerry Hill, a state senator representing Calfornia’s 13th District who introduced the bill.

Roughly 15,000 people are arrested for DUI in San Diego County every year, but opponents don’t believe the bill will make a difference.

“SB 61 is a horrible idea that clearly is only designed to benefit the manufacturers and installers of ignition interlock devices, not traffic safety,” said DUI attorney Philip Gagnon.

Gagnon points to a DMV study this year analyzing the data from four counties, including Los Angeles, where pilot programs are underway as opponents say are proof SB 61 won’t work.

The study showed no evidence of general deterrence. Proponents say other studies have shown more positive effects, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control finding that the locks cut drunk driving recidivism offenses by 67 percent.

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