Addressing Loopholes with New Mexico's Ignition Interlock Law
By: Chris Kramer
Back in June 2005, New Mexico became the first state in the country to require first-time DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles. These devices, of course, require offenders to blow into and pass a breathalyzer each and every time they want to drive. If any alcohol is detected, the interlock will stop the vehicle from turning over or starting.
A year after enacting this DUI law, New Mexico detailed how ignition interlocks had helped reduce drunk driving fatalities by 12 percent. Just last year, New Mexico ignition interlock devices kept some 63,000 people from starting their cars!
Since June of 2005, three other states - Arizona, Louisiana and Illinois - have adopted similar DUI laws requiring first-time offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.
So while the New Mexico ignition interlock law has been applauded and viewed by many as a foundation for the development of similar legislation fighting repeat DUIs there have been problems with its enforcement.
In fact, a recent KOB-TV story revealed that while some 6,000 ignition interlock devices were installed last year, another 6,000 New Mexico ignition interlocks were not! This 50 percent gap has been attributed in large part to a loophole within the New Mexico DUI law in which people simply tell the judge that they don't drive or own a car.
While New Mexico legislators may have not had the foresight to predict this problem stemming from its ignition interlock DUI law, such issues are now being considered in the midst of a similar law.
Just this past year, New Mexico added to its ignition interlock law by requiring people who move into the state and have a past DUI conviction since June of 2005 to install these devices in their cars. Naturally, such a New Mexico DUI law could easily be circumvented by newcomers to the state with past DUI offenses. These new residents with past DUI convictions could, hypothetically, state that they did not know that they were required to get an ignition interlock.
In midst and anticipation of such rule breakers, Governor Bill Richardson recently announced a proposal that would require newcomers in the state to obtain a New Mexico driver's license within 30 days of moving. As for those drivers who fail to get a state-issued driver's license within this time period, Richardson said that they would be subject to penalties that have not been clearly defined at this point.
Under current state law, all New Mexico residents are required to have a state driver's license. However, the time period for a newcomer in the state to get a New Mexico driver's license is not defined in current law.
While Richardson's proposal would address this possible problem with the bypassing of ignition interlock laws, it still fails to take care of a much larger issue: half of current New Mexico residents who are supposed to have ignition interlocks installed are not doing so.
Such a statistic kind of defeats the purpose of having an ignition interlock law in place to begin with!