NJ State Senate Initiates Bill Requiring EVERY Convicted DWI Offender Use an Ignition Interlock Device

February 8, 2013

The New Jersey State Senate recently set in motion a bill that if made into law would require any DWI offender -- even first-timers -- to have an ignition interlock device installed on his or her vehicle as a mandatory condition of their sentencing. According to news articles the new legislation, if passed, would amend the state's DWI laws to include wording requiring all convicted drunken driving offenders to have an ignition interlock installed in their cars for varying lengths of time.

As New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyers, my colleagues and I have worked for many years helping motorists who have been charged with DWI- and DUI-related offenses. We understand how a single indiscretion can lead to an expensive, inconvenient, embarrassing and often life-changing drunken driving conviction. In fact, numerous personal and professional relationships have been damaged or outright ruined as the result of a conviction for operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, doctor-prescribed medicines, or even an illicit (read: a controlled dangerous substance [CDS]) drug like marijuana or cocaine.

Having worked in this field for many years, both as a defense lawyer and as a municipal prosecuting attorney, I have a deep understanding of the strategies and tactics that the attorneys for the state employ to secure a conviction. My goal, and that of my legal team, is to provide the best possible defense for those individuals who believe that they have been falsely accused of drunken driving, drug DUI or breath test refusal. Whatever the cause of the DWI-DUI charges, a qualified DWI defense lawyer must consider all the facts in order to help his or her client achieve a just outcome.

With this latest legislative step, more than a few convicted drunk drivers will likely be forced to install an ignition interlock onto their automobile as part of their sentencing. If and when this is finally passed, all those convicted of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol -- even first-time offenders -- will be subject to this rule.

Based on news reports, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted at the end of January to release the bill, which specifies both the minimum and maximum duration that an ignition interlock must remain on an individual's car or truck following reinstatement of that person's driver's license following a drunken driving conviction.

For those who are not familiar with these devices, an ignition interlock is an electronic device that will only allow a vehicle to which it is attached to be started if and only if the breath sample provided by the driver does not exceed a maximum allowable blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 percent. Operation of the device not only is required at initial start-up of the vehicle, but also at random intervals while the vehicle is being driven. To say that having one of these machines attached to one's vehicle is an inconvenience would be an understatement, at least to some drivers, if not most.

The legislation, as it was worded last week, would require all DWI offenders to have an interlock device installed for at least 90 days. Beyond this, any first-time offender convicted of DWI with a BAC up to and including 0.10 percent would be required by the new law to have an ignition interlock installed for three to six months. Convicted first-time offenders with a BAC of more than 0.10 percent would have to endure the device for seven to 12 months. For second-time offenders, the law would force these individuals to maintain a working interlock device on their car for between two and four years; those convicted of DWI for a third time or more would have to keep one of these devices on their car for 10 to 20 years.

Obviously, the rather severe requirements of this future new law will be to reduce the chances of formerly convicted DWI offenders from even starting their vehicle if they have consumed almost any amount of alcohol. Reducing the opportunity for recidivism is apparently the approach to this latest legislation. Will it work as expected? That is for the public to decide over the course of time, but as we have alluded to more than once in this forum, those who drink and drive are fast becoming social outcasts.


Senate panel advances bill requiring all DWI offenders to install ignition locks, PhillyBurbs.com, February 1, 2013