Wednesday, May 06, 2009

NY, DWI, Ignition Interlock, and MADD

Great story on Capital News 9 last night. The NY State Assembly has a bill (A-7196) that would require ignition interlock devices for everyone convicted of DWI. Specifics from the bill are below.

In the News 9 story, Laura Dean-Mooney of MADD said: "If there are detectable levels of alcohol, their car simply will not start." So in other words, if you have any alcohol on your breath whatsoever, even if you're not impaired, your car will not start. Now some of you are thinking that this is only for people who have been convicted of DWI. Rest assured that MADD will not stop there. As Dean-Mooney put it:

This ... is a good start, but she hopes technology similar to the device could come to be ... in all cars ... that will ultimately eliminate drunk driving.

Let's be clear folks - MADD wants to put devices in your cars that will require you to blow into a device, and if it shows detectable levels of alcohol, your car won't start. Their goal is to do this for everyone.

Keep in mind that breath tests are unreliable. See my recent post on breath test videos. You won't be able to drive if you had a glass of wine with dinner. Cough syrup could be a problem. And if you had some bread, well your car still might not start.

But let's get to the substance of the bill. It would create a new Section 1198 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law (repealing the current version). First, it expands the ignition interlock program to DWAI. The current 1198 does not permit courts to impose the device on a DWAI offender. The new bill doesn't mandate ignition interlock for a DWAI offender, but it does make it an option for the judge (1198(2)(B)). It's not hard to imagine some prosecutors (cough ... Soares ... cough cough) requiring the device for any DWAI plea bargains.

For DWI, there is an interesting trade-off. 1198(2)(E) mandates a sentence of "conditional discharge" and probation for a first DWI offense, with the ignition interlock device a condition. Apparently this means you can't get jail time for a first DWI offense (currently up to a year under 1193), as a conditional discharge usually means no imprisonment. But you can still get 15 days on a DWAI.

The BAC involved determines how long you have to use the device per (E)(1). For BACs from 0.08 to 0.11, it would be three months; from .12 to .17 it's six months; and for .18 and up it's a year. The period starts when you first get a conditional or restored license to drive. It's not clear how this would apply to a "common law DWI" conviction under 1192(3) where there is no BAC.

For a second offense, under (E)(2), you don't get the discharge, and probation is mandatory with three years of the device, though here the three years seems to start at sentencing. For a third offense it's 5 years. For the 4th offense it's required for 10 years to life.

One interesting detail: With DWI it usually matters how long ago your previous conviction was, but not with this bill. If you had a DWI more than 10 years ago, a new offense is not treated as a second offense. But for purposes of the ignition interlock device it now will be.

The bill also adds a $50 surcharge to which will fund the ignition interlock program. I knew they'd find another way to raise taxes.

Oh, by the way, I've seen estimates that renting an ignition interlock device costs up to $100/month. The Sens-O-Lock is $95/month plus taxes and other costs if it's for less than a year. So add another $1200 to the cost of a DWI conviction.
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