Whether one too many drinks were consumed with dinner or someone mistakenly thought they were capable of driving home after a party, no one wants to get a drunken driving ticket. Unfortunately, in Connecticut anyone convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol gets much more than a ticket, monetary fine and potential imprisonment.
As of January 1 , 2012 they also get a 45 day suspension of their driver's license and a mandatory ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle.
Connecticut passed the law to show that the state is increasing penalties for those convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) charges. Originally, the state required installation of the mandatory devices after a second DUI conviction, but the new law has stepped up the penalty to apply to first offenses.
About Ignition Interlock Devices and the New Law
Ignition interlock devices serve as a popular tool against DUI offenses. The device requires a driver to provide a breath sample prior to allowing the engine to start. It works similar to Breathalyzer tests, analyzing the breath sample and determining a blood alcohol content (BAC) reading for the driver. If the BAC is found to be over a predetermined reading, the car will not start.
Many ignition interlock devices also include technological advances. For example, some devices contain cameras to keep the driver from having a passenger provide the breath sample. Others have "rolling" tests, re-checking the driver every fifteen minutes after the engine starts. These are just a few of many recent attempts to further strengthen the accuracy of the system and discourage drivers from using samples from passengers.
If convicted, the offender is required to install the device within their primary vehicle. The interlock is then required to remain in the vehicle for one year after the driver completes a mandatory 45 day license suspension. For a second offense that occurs within ten years of the first, a driver is required to maintain the device within his or her vehicle for three years.
Use of the device was supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, with advocates for the law stating the presence of an ignition interlock device is the easiest way to cut down the rate of recidivism for drunk driving. Although the device may provide a way to ensure drivers are not operating vehicles while under the influence, others argue the penalty may be too harsh too soon.
In addition to the hassle and social stigma of the device, those convicted and required to use an ignition interlock system must cover both the cost of installation and monitoring. These costs are not cheap. The initial application fee costs $100 and installation averages can reach well over $150. The driver must also pay a monthly monitoring fee, which carries a wide range of prices but averages $75 a month.
Some who oppose the law also note that requirement with a first offense is simply a way to ease the public into the notion that all vehicles throughout the nation will soon come with similar interlock systems as standard equipment. Experts state this is concerning, especially since ignition interlock devices can be so sensitive even the use of mouthwash prior to a test can trigger a positive reading.
An additional argument is set forth by leaders with the restaurant trade group. They argue that a judge should determine when an ignition interlock device is most appropriate - not legal mandates.
The restaurant trade group's managing director calls for the system to hold a 10 drink offender to a higher level of accountability then someone barely over the limit.
In a time when most people in the country are struggling financially to make ends meet, an additional $1150 a year may not be feasible. In fact, one projection estimates as much as $7.2 million could be spent on the device in Connecticut during 2012 alone. The device is further estimated to jump in use from a few hundred throughout the state to as many as 6,000. As a result, the impact of the law will likely be felt in homes across the state.
It is more important than ever to take DUI charges seriously. Many first time offenders are able to get charges dismissed after completing alcohol education courses and agreeing to a mandatory license suspension. If you or a loved one is struggling with a DUI charge, it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced DUI defense lawyer to better ensure all your legal rights are protected.