Ignition Interlock Laws Debated in Illinois and South Carolina


The debate over ignition interlock devices is igniting in states like Illinois and South Carolina. Specifically, both states are considering new DUI laws which would require first-time DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.

So what is an ignition interlock device? An ignition interlock device requires a driver to blow into an alcohol breath test in order for the car to turn over and start.

Proposed Illinois DUI Law Would Replace State's Outdated Judicial Driving Permit.

Senator John J. Cullerton of Chicago has introduced Senate Bill 300, which would require that first-time offenders install a Blood Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device, and essentially get rid of the state's judicial driving permit. Cullerton called his proposed Illinois DUI law "a major initiative" which would make the state a model to follow. Current Illinois DUI law requires repeat DUI offenders to use these devices.

A Chicago Daily Law Bulletin story said that this Illinois DUI legislation was a major initiative of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Chuck A. Hurley, MADD's chief executive officer, said that this Illinois DUI bill would go much further than preventing repeat offenders from drinking and driving.

Hurley specifically said that this proposed Illinois DUI law would allow offenders to keep their jobs and families. He added that requiring an ignition interlock device would take care of problems with the state's judicial permit, which allows exceptions to only those people who drive to and from work and not those who work from home or are unemployed.

Some Illinois DUI attorneys did not share the same optimism about this bill as Hurley and Cullerton. Specifically, Wheaton DUI attorney Donald J. Ramsell was described in the story as questioning whether alcohol ignition interlock devices could tell the difference between the breath of an offender and a sober buddy. Ramsell worried whether offenders would be able to get around the ignition interlock devices, a concern that an employee of one of the companies which distributes these devices attempted to refute.

Debra Coffey, director of judicial services for Smart Start, said that after a driver passes the initial test to star the car, he or she must take a "rolling retest" four minutes later and at random intervals while driving. She added that a driver would have about six minutes to complete the test. While she acknowledged that the car would not stop if a person did not take the follow up tests, Coffey said a call would be placed to the company.

Ramsell also wondered whether alcohol ignition interlock devices could be tripped up by other substances in a person's breath and result in false positive blood alcohol content levels. Coffey said that while this concern may have been valid ten years ago, it is a moot point nowadays considering the technology behind modern ignition interlock devices.

The story added that an alcohol ignition interlock device would cost Illinois offenders around $500 for six months of monitoring. Specifically, there would be a $70 installation fee and $70 monthly charge for the device. This proposed Illinois DUI law would also create the Alcohol Monitoring Device Fund to help poorer offenders pay for the device.

Proposed South Carolina DUI Law Would Require All Offenders to Install Ignition Interlock Devices for Different Amounts of Time

South Carolina Senator Joel Lourie has introduced DUI legislation which would require alcohol ignition interlock devices for all first-time and repeat offenders after their driver's license suspension ends. Specifically, this proposed South Carolina DUI law would require:

  • first-time offenders to use ignition interlock devices for one year;
  • two timers to use them for two years;
  • three-time offenders to use them for three years; and
  • four-time and subsequent offenders to use them for up to life.

Current South Carolina DUI law allows judges to order ignition interlock devices, but a story by The State newspaper in Columbia reveals that they have rarely done so because there are no state regulations for the devices.

Lourie described his proposed South Carolina DUI law as a new way to look at the drunken driving problems in the state. Specifically, 36% of the 1,093 people killed in South Carolina car accidents in 2005 were involved in drunken driving accidents. Last year, nearly 11,000 licenses were suspended in the state for drunken-driving offenses, and 2,300 of those cases involved repeat offenders.

Lourie said that he modeled his South Carolina DUI legislation after a 2005 New Mexico DUI law which mandated ignition interlock devices and helped reduce alcohol-related fatalities in the state by 12 percent.

Of further interest, a similar piece of South Carolina DUI legislation requiring alcohol ignition interlock devices for repeat offenders in the state has been stuck in the House Judiciary Committee since January.

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