A new federal law could require a first time DUI offender to install an ignition interlock device:
On July 8, 2014, Nita Lowey, the Representative for New York's 17th Congressional District, introduced “Alisa's Law” in the House of Representatives. This law would push States to require all convicted DUI drivers to install ignition interlock devices for a minimum of six months. States that do not enact and enforce this law by October 1, 2014 would face a reduction in federal transportation funding. Under the United States Constitution, Congress cannot compel States to enforce a law, but it can legally withhold federal highway funds from those States that do not comply. Congress used this same tactic to raise the legal age of drinking to 21-years-old and also to lower the Blood Alcohol Concentration (“BAC”) legal limit from 0.10 grams to 0.08 grams.
An ignition interlock acts as a breath-testing unit for your car. When an ignition interlock is installed, you must breathe into it to start the engine. Your engine will not start if the device determines that your BAC is above the programmed limit. The device features several safeguards to prevent manipulation. For example, the device requires a sample before you start the vehicle and it will randomly request additional breath samples. If it requests a sample while you are driving and you don't provide it, the engine will not stop. Instead, it will log the incident, and the driver will face consequences for failing to provide the sample.
Congresswoman Lowey founded Alisa's Law, which was named after Mothers Against Drunk Driving's current President's daughter, Alisa Joy, who was killed in 1992 by a drunk driver. Congresswoman Lowey has made her DUI-prevention-agenda clear. In 2000, Lowey passed the law requiring the States to enact a maximum BAC level of .08 as a condition of receiving federal transportation assistance. Of Alisa's Law, she stated, “[i]n addition to the enormous emotional toll, drunk driving costs taxpayers $132 billion each year. We know interlocks work and it's time for every state to adopt this lifesaving measure.”
In Georgia, state law currently requires an ignition interlock for drivers who have been convicted of a second or subsequent DUI offense. O.C.G.A. § 42-8-111 provides:
Upon a second or subsequent conviction of a Georgia resident for violating Code Section § 40-6-391 within five years, the convicted person shall have installed and shall maintain for tweleve months in each motor vehicle registered in his or her name, and in any other motor vehicle to be driven by him or her, a functioning, certified ignition interlock device, unless the court exempts the person based on the court's determination of undue financial hardship.
The Georgia Court of Appeals held in State v. Villella, 266 Ga. App. 499, 597 S.E.2d 563 (2004), that O.C.G.A. § 42-8-111's language “is plain and susceptible of only one natural and reasonable construction” and that "shall" means that the trial court must impose an ignition interlock device as a condition of probation for a second time DUI offender, unless there is a showing of financial hardship.
The fate of Alisa's Law has yet to be seen. To become law, a bill must be passed by both the House and Senate in identical form and then be signed by the President. Alisa's Law, if passed, would drastically change Georgia's DUI current law that does not require an interlock after a first offense.
If you have been charged with a DUI in Georgia, or wish to speak to an Attorney about ignition interlock information, contact an Atlanta DUI Attorney today. Atlanta DUI Lawyer Richard Lawson is a former DUI Prosecutor with nearly 20 years experience defending people accused of DUI throughout Metro Atlanta and North Georgia. Call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are here when you need us most.
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