New Ignition Interlock Bill Proposed

statehouseThere is currently a bill pending at the Massachusetts Statehouse which would replace the current hardship licensing program with ignition interlock licenses. If enacted, this bill would require first offenders to have ignition interlock restricted licenses and it would also allow all repeat DUI offenders, regardless of the number of prior drunk driving convictions appearing on the person’s record, to apply for an “ignition interlock license.”

Senator James Timility of Walpole sponsored the bill and it is currently under consideration by the Joint Committee on Transportation. A hearing on the proposed legislation was conducted in November of last year and it has received some media attention.

The proposed law has no waiting periods for these licenses so that DUI offenders could apply to MassDOT immediately after conviction. The proposed legislation also allows for the issuance of IID restricted licenses during chemical test refusal suspensions. Currently, repeat offenders who refused  breath tests are not able to get hardship licenses while the breathalyzer refusal suspension is in effect. The proposed law would, if passed, would allow someone who is arrested for DUI to seek a driver’s license while the DUI case is being litigated. Refusal suspensions range in length from 6 months up to lifetime.

The basis for the proposed law change is statistics which show that many convicted drunk drivers who have had their driver’s licenses suspended or revoked continue to drive anyway. The theory behind the bill is that the public will be protected because these drivers will be able to lawfully drive, so long as they are only operating ignition interlock device equipped motor vehicles. The IID  would prevent the person’s vehicle from starting if his blood alcohol level registered at or above .02. Evidence of circumvention, disconnection, and/or failed rolling retests result in the driver being called in for a hearing.

The bill basically terminates drunk driving license suspensions generated by convictions, alcohol education program assignments, pleas, and breath test refusals with the issuance of ignition interlock restricted licenses. Unlike Massachusetts hardship licenses, which are valid only for 12 hours each day, these restricted driver’s licenses would be valid for 24 hours a day. It basically replaces hardship licenses with interlock licenses and allows offenders to apply for these licenses immediately, with no waiting period. Offenders would have a choice – agree to enroll in the IID program or give up the right to drive. These devices cost approximately $100.00 per month and they must be monitored, calibrated, and downloaded on a monthly basis.

Ignition Interlocks are not new to Massachusetts. We have been using them here since Melanie’s Law was enacted on January 1, 2006. Currently, all repeat OUI offenders must use the IID for the entire term of any hardship license and for a minimum of 2 full years after getting the hours removed and obtaining a fulltime right to operate.