The proposed legislation, which recently passed the Texas House, would create an all-offender ignition interlock law establishing that a Texas resident convicted of DWI, even on just their first offense, would get an occupational license as long as the resident installs an ignition interlock device in their motor vehicle.
Under current Texas law, interlock devices are only required if you’ve been convicted of DWI multiple times. Courts also have the discretion to require ignition interlock devices as a part of probation for first-time offenders, but only if they had a BAC of 0.15 or greater.
“HB 2246, creating an all-offender interlock law, is desperately needed in Texas,” said MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church, according to an article on the Houston Chronicle.
“Texas leads the country in deaths caused by drunken drivers,” said State Rep. Jason Villalba, who sponsored the new bill. “Ignition interlocks save lives, and it’s time for Texas to expand the reach of its interlock law to help end this violent, preventable crime.”
Interlock Devices For 1st DWIs Yield Positives
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that drunk drivers caused 1,337 fatalities in Texas in 2013 and over 15,000 people were injured in accidents involving intoxicated motorists.
Twenty-four states, including Arizona and New Mexico, require these devices for all first-time convicted drunk drivers, according to the aforementioned Mineral Wells Index article. The results appear to be positive. For example, after New Mexico enacted an all-offender interlock in 2005, deaths caused by drunken drivers have declined by 40 percent. Similarly, Arizona saw a 45 percent decline in drunk driving deaths after passing an ignition interlock law back in 2007.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that ignition interlocks help reduce repeat drunk driving offenses by 67 percent when compared with license suspensions, according to the Mineral Wells Index article. Support for the new legislation is broad, including endorsements from the National Transportation Safety Board, AAA and the Governors Highway Safety Association.
Despite the support from many organizations, some people are against the proposal arguing that an ignition interlock device does not address the root issue – reducing the number of people who actually drink and drive.
“One of the concerns that we in the probation field have is that this bill is not going to prevent people from drinking and driving. It is going to prevent them from drinking and driving that car, many people have access to more than one vehicle” said Terry Easterling, Director, Community Supervision and Corrections Department Potter, Randall, and Armstrong Counties, according to News Channel 10.
Easterling went on to argue that a large percentage of first-time DWI offenders are actually never arrested again, which means that the time and money spent on enforcing a new ignition interlock law may be better spent on targeting repeat offenders.
“If we are having to put a lot of time and resources into supervising somebody that is in all likelihood never going to come back into the criminal justice system, then that takes away the time away to supervise the real high risk offenders, the assault offender and the sex offenders,” said Easterling.
Questions about Changes to the Law?
Contact Our Galveston DWI Attorneys
This is an interesting debate and touches on the important issue of whether “zero tolerance” laws are truly effective. We will have to wait and see what the final version of the legislation looks like if, or when, it is signed by the governor. Regardless, if you have been charged with DUI, don’t hesitate to contact the Galveston DWI lawyers at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates for help.
We are prepared to defend you today. Don’t hesitate to call the law firm and talk with Tad or Amber at 409-904-0075 if you need expert legal help.