On March 7, 2012, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed a new law providing
that as of July 1, people convicted in the commonwealth of driving under
the influence for the first time will be required to install ignition-interlock
devices on their cars as a condition of regaining driving privileges.
The device will be required during the six-month restricted license period
that follows a first DUI conviction.
Under existing law, ignition interlocks are only required for repeat
DUI offenders and for those who are caught driving while highly intoxicated
- with blood alcohol content levels of 0.15 or higher.
Ignition interlocks are like Breathalyzers on wheels: cell phone-sized
equipment installed in vehicles controls whether they will start depending
on whether the drivers who blow into the devices pass alcohol breath tests
first. The devices also require that drivers take "rolling retests"
- on-board breath tests at random while driving. If the test is not passed
while the car is moving, the horn will sound repeatedly and the headlights
will flash to get the attention of law enforcement.
Virginia law sets the BAC level at which a driver fails an ignition-interlock
test at anything above 0.02 percent.
Kurt Erickson of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program is quoted widely
in the Virginia press as stating that with this new legislation, Virginia
joins only 15 other states that require ignition-interlock devices for
all people convicted of drunk driving. These states require the devices
regardless of BAC levels - the offender could be barely over the legal
limit or twice that amount - or whether the offenders face their first
convictions or are habitual drunk drivers with multiple convictions.
Virginia legislators were likely motivated in passing the law by commonwealth
statistics. The good news is that according to the
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, the annual numbers of both alcohol-related injuries and fatalities significantly
decreased in Virginia from 2004 to 2010 (29 and 20 percent, respectively).
However, there were still almost 6,000 alcohol-related injuries and almost
300 deaths in 2010.
Understanding The Bill
Safety advocates have been pushing for this type of law in Virginia for
several years, citing its likely deterrent effect. The new legislation
started with identical bills introduced in the Virginia House and Senate
by Delegate Salvatore Iaquinto, R-Virginia Beach, and Sen. Donald McEachin,
D-Henrico, respectively. Both passed and the governor signed the house bill.
Other significant provisions in the new bill include:
- On a second or subsequent DUI, the offender must install interlocks in
all of his or her motor vehicles.
- The court may allow a restricted license only for the purpose of driving
to and from the interlock installer.
- To avoid delay, someone accused of DUI may choose to prequalify for a device
even before conviction.
- An offender has 30 days from the court order to install an interlock device
to prove the installation, and failure to do so or comply with monitoring
and calibration requirements may result in the court revoking restricted
Some opponents of the new law feel it is too hard on first-time offenders
and that costs associated with installation will be a hardship for those
with lower incomes.
If you are stopped for or charged with DUI in Virginia, whether you are
a resident, tourist, high school or college student, driving for work
or any other situation, an experienced
Virginia criminal attorney can help you understand your rights and responsibilities and advise you
about how to proceed.
Call The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller today to schedule your free consultation with our Virginia Beach DUI defense firm.