One state passed a new law requiring the devices for repeat offenders as of the new year.
Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska and Washington began requiring the interlock devices for first offenders. Those states join New Mexico, Louisiana and Arizona as the only states that require the devices for first offenders.
South Carolina now requires the interlocks for repeat offenders, joining several states that make it mandatory. Many states have laws that leave the interlock requirement up to the sentencing judge.
Devices Decrease Traffic Fatalities
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, an advocacy group that has been pushing for laws in every state demanding ignition interlocks for first offenders, says that the devices are rarely ordered by judges unless the law mandates them.
That was especially true in Illinois, according to MADD.
"Illinois has excellent law enforcement," MADD national CEO Chuck Hurley said. "But the judicial system leaks like a sieve. This law will change the catch and release system to one where people are at least caught and tagged."
While lobbying for the first offender laws, MADD points to the success of the devices in New Mexico, the first state to mandate the interlocks in 2005. According to MADD, drunk-driving related deaths have dropped 20 percent.
First-Offender Laws Opposed by Some
The first-offender laws are opposed by the liquor industry. Sarah Longwell of the American Beverage Institute said her group supports use of the devices for repeat offenders or those who are arrested with excessively high blood-alcohol concnetrations.
The laws mandating the devices for first offenders does not give the judge any discretion in sentencing and could lead to more draconian laws.
"We foresee is a country in which you're no longer able to have a glass of wine, drink a beer at a ball game or enjoy a champagne toast at a wedding," Longwell told reporters. "There will be a de facto zero tolerance policy imposed on people by their cars."
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