Category Archives: Ignition Interlock Device

State Senate Passes Bill Making Fourth DUI a Felony.

Image result for dui and politics

The WA State Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would make driving under the influence (DUI) a felony if the driver has three or more prior offenses on their criminal record within 10 years.

Senate Bill 5037 passed Thursday and now heads to the House, where it has stalled in previous years. The bill’s sponsors are as follows: Padden, Frockt, O’Ban, Darneille, Miloscia, Kuderer, Zeiger, Carlyle, Pearson, Conway, Rolfes, Palumbo, Angel, and Wellman.

Under the measure, a person who is charged with a fourth DUI, and has no other criminal history, would be subject to a standard sentencing range of 13 to 17 months in jail.

However, this bill allows first-time felony offenders to spend up to six months in jail, instead of nine, and finish out the rest of their sentence under supervision, such as attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and other programs.

My opinion? We shouldn’t be surprised. Over the past 20 years, Americans have seen a significant increase in the harsh penalties for intoxicated drivers. Perhaps this is necessary move given the thousands of lives lost to drunk drivers. Speaking as a criminal defense attorney, there’s serious question as to whether people commit these violations purely out of willful disregard for the law and for the safety of others or because of an untreated mental illness or alcohol addiction. Nevertheless, public outcry has led to increased sentences.

Many attorneys in Whatcom County and Skagit County claim to represent clients in DUI cases, but not all attorneys have the experience and successes of attorney Alexander F. Ransom.  To learn more about DUI laws or if you have been charged with a driving offense, make your first call count. Call the Law Office of Alexander F. Ransom today.

The Neurology of Risky Driving Behavior

A very interesting article from the Association for Psychological Science discusses how a team of Canadian psychological scientists is looking at the personality, cognitive, and neurobiological factors that contribute to reckless driving behavior. By better understanding the patterns of emotional processing and risk perception shown by repeat offenders, the researchers hope to design interventions that more effectively target these subgroups of dangerous drivers.

The evidence certainly exists. According to the article, drunk driving accounts for 35-40% of all driver fatalities in Canada and the United States, and drunk driving crashes kill more than 10,000 Americans every year. Amazingly, an estimated 30% of DUI offenders will continue to drink and drive, even after being arrested and punished.

“Surprisingly, these drivers usually don’t consider themselves as risk takers,” lead author Thomas G. Brown of McGill University said. “If drivers don’t believe they are risky, they will not accept the need to change. On the other hand, if we and they don’t understand their behavior, how can they be expected to change it effectively?”

The study began when Brown and his colleagues recruited four groups of male drivers who had different criminal histories: 36 men with at least two convictions for drunk driving (DUI group); 28 reckless drivers with at least three speeding violations in the past two years (speeders); 27 men with arrests for both DUI and speeding (DWI-speeders); and 47 low-risk drivers with no history of serious traffic offenses (control group).

According to the article, participants completed a battery of personality and impulsivity assessments, ranging from a Big Five personality measure to an executive control task that assessed their sensitivity to punishment and reward. Participants’ cortisol response, a hormonal reaction to stress, was measured by collecting saliva samples before and after they completed a timed mental arithmetic task previously shown to elicit stress.

Even more interesting, participants also completed a session of simulated driving that included driving on virtual highways, merging lanes, turning at intersections, and avoiding pedestrians.

The researchers found that different subgroups of risky drivers had distinctive neurobiological profiles. Compared to the low-risk control group, speeders were prone to making decisions based on thrill-seeking and a need for high levels of stimulation. Repeat DUI offenders, in contrast, had the lowest level of risk-taking behavior while sober.

“One possibility in line with the present results is that once heavy drinking has occurred, more impulsive drivers are more vulnerable to alcohol’s disruptive effects on the behavioral control mechanisms required to avoid DWI,” the researchers explain.

All of the dangerous driving groups exhibited significant blunting in their cortisol stress response compared with the control group. Cortisol, along with other stress hormones, influences cognitive processes that range from risk assessment to encoding emotional memories. These results suggest that dysregulation of the body’s cortisol response could act as a neurobiological marker for risky driving behavior.

“Relative to the other [risky driving] profiles considered here, the profile exhibited by group DUI may be the most amenable to interventions that aim to augment recall of the negative consequences of DUI behavior and pre-emptively decouple alcohol use from driving,” the researchers conclude.

Stated differently, interventions designed to improve drivers’ recall of the negative consequences of drinking and driving are effective for preventing drunk driving. This explains the findings why repeat DUI offenders had the lowest level of risk-taking behavior while sober.

My opinion? The study is interesting, for sure. Not surprisingly, the criminal justice system uses many of these these psychological deterrents to “decouple alcohol use from driving.” When it comes to DUI cases, gaining a worthwhile reduction of the charges often means the defendant obtaining an alcohol/drug evaluation, attending mandatory treatment, attending AA meetings and attending a Victim Impact Panel. Additionally, the financial costs of DUI fines and mandatory ignition interlock devices are constant reminders to DUI offenders that future risky behavior is simply not worth it.

That said, hiring a competent DUI attorney to fight DUI charges might be a worthy endeavor. The basic legal issues surrounding a DUI arrest are (1) whether the stop was lawful, (2) whether there was enough evidence to arrest, (3) whether the officer informed the defendant of Implied Consent Warnings, and (4) whether the defendant either (a) refused the BAC breathalyzer machine or (b) blew over .08 and/or had .05 nanograms of active THC in their blood when pulled over.

If you’re charged with DUI, the best advice is to immediately contact a competent DUI defense attorney to discuss your case. Good luck!

“Car Key” Breathalyzer

 

Honda/Hitachi breathalyzer

According to an article by caranddriver.com, auto maker Honda and electronics company Hitachi developed a compact and tamper-proof portable breathalyzer.

The breathalyzer is able to detect non-human gases by way of “saturated water vapor sensor.” Hitachi was able to shrink this sensor so that it could fit in the prototype breathalyzer, which is roughly the size of an average car’s smart key.

The sensor itself incorporates a pair of electrodes that sandwich an oxide insulator. When humid human breath passes over the insulator, the moisture in it is absorbed. This allows a “current” to pass between the electrodes.

The technology combines the breathalyzer with a car’s “smart key.” In other words, the device could be programmed to disallow the user to start the car. This built-in ignition interlock is much slicker and far less embarrassing than the retrofitted versions required by municipalities here in the U.S. for drivers previously convicted of a DUI or on probation for a similar offense.

Furthermore, the breathalyzer can take a reading of the blower’s blood-alcohol content (BAC) within three seconds.

Problematically, the device cannot tell who is blowing for a reading. An intoxicated driver could still, theoretically, pass the device to a sober bystander to fool the system.

While neat and certainly welcome, the device isn’t as high-tech as, say, the anti-drunk-driving solutions NHTSA is chasing with breathalyzers built into cars—which are capable of determining between drunk car occupants and drunk drivers.

Still, the device is a fairly novel step in the right direction.  It’s too intrusive upon drivers, doesn’t violate constitutional rights, it appears affordable and it protects public safety.

Harsher DUI Penalties Pass Washington House

According to Q13 Fox News, a bill that would require harsher penalties for people convicted of felony-level offenses for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol has unanimously passed the House.

House Bill 2280, approved Monday, would make a driver’s fourth DUI conviction within 10 years a Class B felony, rather than a Class C felony.

The bill will now be considered by the Senate.

A Class C felony has a maximum of five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both.

A Class B felony has a maximum of 10 years in prison, $20,000 fine or both.

A DUI is a gross misdemeanor in existing law.

A DUI for someone convicted of vehicular homicide or vehicular assault while intoxicated would also be a Class B felony under the bill.

Stoned Drivers Hit Test Course To Evaluate Marijuana DUI Limits

An article from the Denver Huffington Post addressed an interesting question regarding the regulation of legal marijuana: how high is too high to drive?

Given the lack of precedent, Washington TV station KIRO opted to observe actions over words. The station assembled a group of volunteers, had them smoke pot (appropriately, the strain was called “blueberry train wreck”), and set them loose on a driving test course.

Here’s the video.

A handful of police officers stood nearby, watching any telltale signs of stoned driving. Also, a driving school instructor sat in the passenger’s seat, ready to take the wheel or stomp the brake pedal at a moment’s notice.

Unfortunately, the results (while entertaining) don’t add much clarity to the question at all. A regular smoker of marijuana tested above the legal limit to begin with, yet drove without much of a problem (at least initially). Two casual smokers also navigated the course without incident. (Spoiler alert: after smoking more marijuana, things devolve quickly).

In 2012, Colorado legislators declined to pass a law that would have limited drivers to 5 nanograms of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, per milliliter of blood.

“This is a bit of unprecedented territory, so trying to find the right approach has proven difficult and cumbersome,” explained Rep. Dan Pabon, a lawmaker on Colorado’s marijuana-legalizing task force, to CBS News in 2012.

Washington lawmakers, meanwhile, passed a law in 2012 setting the threshold for legal impairment at 5 nanograms of THC, reports NPR.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to common sense. Explains Bob Calkins, a Washington State Patrol spokesman, to The Oregonian, “We don’t just pull people over and draw blood… If you’re driving OK, we’re not going pull you over. But driving impaired is still driving impaired.”

Lower Legal Alcohol Limit?

The National Transportation Safety Board wants the nationwide legal limit of .08 cut almost in half to .05, in an effort to save more lives.

Oddly, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the nation’s most prominent advocacy group against drunk driving, does not support the legislation. MADD says there’s not enough data to show it would make much of a difference.

“Until we know that and can compare that and have an intellectual conversation on that, we want to focus on what we know is effective,” said Jason Derscheid, the Executive Director of MADD North Texas.

The organization most recently helped pass an interlock ignition law in Texas, allowing DWI offenders to have a device installed on their car. MADD has found that the alternative, suspending an offender’s license, doesn’t prevent them from continuing to drink and drive.

It’s advocating for similar laws to be passed in all 50 states.

Despite its lack of support for lowering the legal limit, MADD says it does not condone any level of drinking of driving.

“The only safe way to get home is to have a non-drinking, designated driver,” said Derscheid.

 

Ignition Interlock Devices Are Cash Cows for States.

According to news released from the Blow & Drive Interlock Corporation (BDIC) The Alcohol Ignition Interlock Industry is experiencing tremendous growth as more and more states continue to pass laws requiring Ignition Interlock Devices for DUI/DWI offenders.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that requiring or highly incentivizing interlocks for all convicted drunken drivers reduces drunken driving recidivism by 67 percent. The CDC recommends ignition interlocks for everyone convicted of DWI, even for first offenders.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Continues to Push for Tougher DUI Laws. In 2006, there were only 100,000 interlocks installed in the United States. As of July 2013, there were nearly 305,000 interlocks in use.

NEW 2016 IGNITION INTERLOCK LAWS

Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 2246 into law in June 2015, allowing those convicted of DWI with blood alcohol content less than 0.15 percent to be able to drive as long as they have an ignition interlock system installed in their car.

New HampshireAfter Jan. 1st 2016, anyone convicted in New Hampshire for a first offense of driving while intoxicated can petition a judge for a limited driver’s license that will allow them to drive to work, school or medical appointments, while their license is suspended, the new law comes with a host of restrictions – including installation of an alcohol-detecting automotive interlock device.

IllinoisNew Ignition Interlock Law goes into effect January 1st, 2016, requiring anyone convicted of two or more DUIs to install a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device on their vehicles for 5 years.

South CarolinaGovernor signed Emma’s Law, which requires all offenders, including first-time offenders, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or greater mandated installation of an ignition interlock device.

Hawaii: New Law Requires Ignition Interlock Users to drive with a Hawaii ID Card. The new law, Act 40, goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2016

PENDING IGNITION INTERLOCK LEGISLATION

Federal: Legislation, called “Alisa’s Law”, would require all first time DUI offenders in all 50 states to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle for up to 2 years

Pennsylvania: Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 290, which would require all repeat convicted drunk drivers as well as first-time offenders with a blood-alcohol concentration of .10 or above to use the alcohol ignition interlock devices.

Oregon: House Bill 2660 Provides court discretion to order person participating in driving while under influence of intoxicants a diversion agreement to install an ignition interlock device if person submitted to chemical test of person’s breath, blood or urine and test disclosed blood alcohol content below 0.08 percent by weight.

Washington: House Bill 1276 includes many provisions to deal with impaired driving.

Ohio: Lawmakers introduced a bill, called Annie’s Law, calling for ignition interlocks to be installed on vehicles if the driver has been convicted two or more times for drunk driving.

Indiana: Lawmakers plan to discuss the problem of repeat drunk drivers this legislative session, including a bill that would improve the ignition interlock system in Indiana.

Wisconsin: Lawmakers have proposed closing a loophole in state law so people who are required to have an ignition interlock device in their vehicle would face criminal punishment if they get caught driving a vehicle without such a device

Massachusetts: State Senate proposed a bill that would give drunk drivers a chance to avoid a license suspension, requiring them instead to install an ignition interlock

Maryland: Governor Larry Hogan is trying to push through one of his latest initiatives, which would require drivers arrested on drunk-driving charges to install an ignition interlock device inside their vehicle.

MADD will continue to push for stricter DUI Laws, and they will continue to Ask More States to pass All-Offender Ignition Interlock Legislation in an effort to keep the roads safe for sober motorists. From only one state requiring interlocks in 2006 today twenty‐six states require or highly incentivize the use of ignition interlocks for every convicted offender and as a result they have reduced drunk driving deaths by 24% overall.

 

 

NY Politician Wants Ignition Interlock Devices in All New Vehicles

Today, U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice announced that she will introduce legislation requiring all American automakers to equip new cars with ignition interlock device (IID) technology which detects a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) and prevents the engine from starting if the driver’s BAC is above the legal limit.

While laws vary across the states, ignition interlock devices are widely required for individuals who are convicted of Driving While Under the Influence. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that requiring interlock technology in all new vehicles would, over a 15 year implementation period, prevent an estimated 85 percent of drunk driving-related deaths and 84-89 percent of drunk driving-related nonfatal injuries.

The study says that prveneting deaths and injuries resulting from DUI and other alcohol/drug related accidents would save an estimated $343 billion over 15 years. Additionally, the cost of installing the IID technology would be recovered in first 3 years of implementing the devices into cars. Finally, the study found that young drivers would benefit the most.

Representative Rice said the following about her legislation:

“Advancing the progress we’ve made combating drunk driving demands bold action. It demands that we take a stand and say we refuse to keep letting drunk drivers take 10,000 lives each year. We refuse to keep seeing families torn apart when we know we can do more to prevent it. Strict enforcement is important, holding drunk drivers accountable is important, but we can and must do more to stop drunk drivers from ever hitting the road in the first place. That’s why I’m working on legislation to require ignition interlock devices in all new cars. This technology saves lives, it saves money, and I’m going to fight to make it standard equipment in American cars.”

Representative Rice previously served as a Prosecutor of Nassau County, NY, where she received national acclaim for her efforts to combat drunk driving, securing Long Island’s first DWI-related murder convictions and helping to lead a statewide overhaul of New York’s DWI laws. Rice was dubbed by the New York Daily News as “the state’s toughest DWI prosecutor,” and recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Didlake v. DOL: Fees for DOL Hearings Held Constitutional

Cost of a DUI

Here’s an interesting opinion on the ever-increasing financial costs of fighting DUI crimes and the Department of Licencing’s (DOL) automatic suspension of a DUI defendant’s driver’s license.

In Didlake v. Department of Licensing, the Court of Appeals held that Washington’s Implied Consent Statute, RCW 46.20.308, which requires drivers arrested for DUI to pay a $200-$375 statutory fee in order to have an administrative hearing on license suspension, does NOT violate due process because of the driving privilege is not a fundamental right and DOL waives the fee for indigent drivers.

In 2010 – 2011 police arrested James Didlake and other defendants for DUI. Washington’s Implied Consent Statute, RCW 46.20.308, requires that a driver arrested for Driving Under the Influence of an Intoxicant (DUI) pay a filing fee to obtain an administrative review hearing to prevent a driver’s license suspension or revocation. And as required by Washington’s implied consent law, the Department initiated license suspension proceedings against them. Each defendant paid a $200 fee for an administrative review hearing. After they prevailed at their hearings, the Department rescinded their license suspensions.

Didlake filed a class action lawsuit against the DOL, asking for injunctive and declaratory relief, plus a refund and damages. He alleged that the $200 statutory fee for an administrative hearing violates due process. Didlake filed a motion for class certification under CR 23. After filing its answer, the DOL filed a motion to dismiss Didlake’s lawsuit under CR 12(b)(6).

On April 5, 2013, the trial court granted the DOL’s motion to dismiss. Didlake asked the Washington Supreme Court for direct review. On March 5, 2014, the Supreme Court transferred the case to the Court of Appeals.

In rendering its decision, the Court of Appeals gave lots of background on the procedural aspects of challeging DOL license suspensions. The court reasoned that the implied consent law provides certain procedural protections to drivers. The DOL must give the driver written notice that it intends to suspend or revoke the driver’s license. The DOL must also notify the driver of the right to a hearing and specify the steps to obtain one. Within 20 days of this notice, the driver may request in writing a formal hearing before the DOL. As part of the request, the driver must pay a mandatory fee. The DOL may waive the fee, however, for drivers who are indigent.

At the hearing, the driver may have assistance of counsel, question witnesses, present evidence, and testify. The hearing officer determines if the officer had reasonable grounds to believe the driver was driving under the influence and if the driver refused to take a test or took a test that revealed a BAC of 0.08 or higher. After the hearing, the DOL “shall order that the suspension, revocation, or denial either be rescinded or sustained.”

Here, the Court reasoned that Washington courts have almost always have upheld the constitutionality of filing fees. Courts have consistently distinguished between fundamental interests and interests that are “solely monetary,” involving “economics and social welfare,” or even “important” or “substantial.” If the interest involved is fundamental, due process requires access for all. Here, the court reasoned, a fee waiver for indigent litigants accomplishes this mandate. If the interest is not fundamental, “a monetary prerequisite to an appeal is thus permissible, even for indigent appellants.

Additionally, Courts have identified the driving privilege as an “important” and “substantial” but not fundamental right. Consequently, the court reasoned, this contradicts Didlake’s assertion that the filing fee has a “chilling effect” on drivers’ exercise of their due process rights. Thus, he fails to establish a facial challenge on due process grounds. And because he paid the fee and received a hearing that complied with due process, he does not show that the fee requirement is unconstitutional as applied to him. “Whether facial or as-applied, Didlake’s due process challenges fail.”

 The Court concluded that because Didlake failed to establish that the implied consent statute’s fee requirement violates procedural due process, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order dismissing Didlake’s class action claim.

My opinion? Speaking as a DUI attorney, DOL hearings and license suspensions are just another way for the State to profit from defendants charged with DUI. These days, a DOL hearing costs $375. Additionally, a defendant’s window of time to apply for these hearings is small – only 20 days after the DUI incident happened. Finally, DOL hearings are very difficult to win. There must be some glaring legal weakness in the case regarding (1) the pullover of the defendant’s vehicle, (2) the evidence of DUI, (3) whether the officer read the Implied Consent Warnings, and/or (4) whether the defendant tested over .08 BAC or refused the BAC machine.

Unfortunately, given the Court’s analysis above, it appears the wheels of justice shall continue to financially grind upon defendants facing license suspensions from DUI charges.

Ignition Devices In All New Cars ?

There’s developing technology exploring the possibility that a fingerprint-based ignition interlock device system may someday be installed in new vehicles in the hopes of stopping impaired drivers from operating their vehicles.In other words, sobriety tests in all new cars might prevent most drunk driving deaths.

Installing devices in new cars to prevent drunk drivers from starting the engine could prevent 85 percent of alcohol-related deaths on U.S. roads, saving tens of thousands of lives and billions of dollars from injury-related costs, according to a new analysis.

“Alcohol interlocks are used very effectively in all 50 states as a component of sentencing or as a condition for having a license reinstated after DUIs, but this only works for the drunk drivers caught by police and it doesn’t catch the people who choose to drive without a license to avoid having the interlock installed,” said lead author Dr. Patrick Carter, an emergency physician with the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor.

Most drunk drivers make about 80 trips under the influence before they are stopped for a DUI, Carter said. “If we decided that every new car should have an alcohol ignition interlock that’s seamless to use for the driver and doesn’t take any time or effort, we suddenly have a way to significantly reduce fatalities and injuries that doesn’t rely solely on police.”

Carter and colleagues used U.S. records of traffic accidents and fatalities to determine how many involved drunk driving and then estimated how many of these incidents could be avoided in the future by fitting new cars with alcohol-interlock devices, which detect blood-alcohol levels and prevent drivers above a certain threshold from starting the car.

Then, they estimated the numbers of deaths and injuries that could be prevented in the first year that all new cars sold had screening systems, and assumed it would take 15 years for older models to be replaced with new vehicles.

Over the 15-year implementation period, interlocks may eliminate about $343 billion in costs from fatalities and injuries related to drunk driving, the researchers estimate. Assuming the device costs $400 per vehicle and is 100 percent accurate, the interlock would pay for itself after three years by way of avoided injury costs.

Getting DADSS into all vehicles can eliminate the element of chance involved in catching drunk drivers under our current system that relies on police, said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Unlike the alcohol ignition interlocks which require you to blow into a devise and are used for convicted drunk drivers, DADSS is a driver assist system that would be seamless, take less than half a second, and use infrared light to measure a driver’s blood alcohol content in the breath or through the fingertips, which is believed to be far more reliable.

My opinion? Although noble, these devices may cause legal problems and litigation than they’re worth. How accurate are the devices? Are they calibrated regularly? Do they store information which can be used against a defendant accused of DUI? Would the devices also test for the presence of drugs? If so, what if the driver has a prescription for the drugs? Only time will tell . . .