Saturday, January 2, 2010

Today the interlock, tomorrow...

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D.-NJ) and Senator Tom Udall (D.-NM) have introduced the Drunk Driver Repeat Offender Prevention Act that would require states to mandate the installation of an ignition interlock device in the car of anyone convicted of driving while intoxicated. The device would have to remain in the car for at least six months.

According to the proposed legislation if a state refused to go along with this new federal mandate it could lose some federal highway funding. This is the same method Congress used to "convince" the states to raise their drinking ages t0 21 and to lower the states' per se definition to an alcohol concentration of .08 and higher.
“We know that 50 to 75 percent of drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license because they can. With an ignition interlock, DUI offenders can still go to work, school, or anywhere else they need to go. They just can’t drive drunk.” -- Jan Withers, MADD national board member
The goals of the legislation may be laudable, but the means of achieving them is not. First, it is not against the law in any state for a motorist to consume an alcoholic beverage and drive a car -- provided the motorist is not intoxicated or has an alcohol concentration below a certain threshold. Second, the installation of an interlock device will not prevent a person from driving another vehicle. Third, driving while intoxicated is not a federal crime (except in some limited circumstances) and the federal government has no business dictating how states punish acts that violate their own criminal statutes.

In Texas many courts require an ignition interlock device be installed before a restricted license will be issued to a motorist who has been convicted of driving while intoxicated. The motorist could lose his license if the device detects any alcohol. A court may also order the installation of an interlock device if a motorist's license suspension is probated by the court. In that case, the motorist could face a motion to revoke probation if the device detects any alcohol. But what about a motorist who pleads guilty, receives time served and never applies for a restricted license? What sanction could a court place on that motorist?

Maybe the next step in this assault on personal liberty and our constitutional rights will be a bill forcing states to place all motorists convicted of DWI on probation. How palatable is that option?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An excellent post on why the federal government should stay out of state matters. This legislation will not accomplish anything. Unfortunately it has the blessing of MADD and we know that the loss of federal highway money is a big stick.