Ignition Interlock: Rethinking Texas DWI Penalties

We have discussed the pros and cons of ignition interlock devices at length in the past. With a bill pending in the Texas legislature that would require ignition interlock sentences for all DWI convictions in the state, this approach to drunk driving is likely to remain in the public eye for the foreseeable future.

House Bill 260 is still working its way through the legislature, but it could impose ignition interlock devices on all Texans who receive a DWI conviction. Under the law as it currently stands in Texas, some defendants must install interlock devices as one part of their sentence, but only if they registered more than .15 blood alcohol content. Under the new proposed law, each and every Texan who receives a DWI conviction would need to install an ignition interlock device. This includes first offense DWIs. While this proposal has some safety benefits and apparently would prevent a number of DWIs, it is not clear whether these pros justify the measure.

Are Ignition Interlock Devices Effective?

Ignition interlock devices use the same breath test technology that police officers use in Texas roadside stops. Drivers must blow into the device to measure blood alcohol content and receive a passing result before starting their vehicle. Different models use various techniques to ensure that the person who blows into the device is actually the driver. For example, one popular model includes a camera that snaps a photo of the driver.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, ignition interlock devices are an effective means to cut repeat DWI violations. Its statistics indicate that the devices can prevent as many as two out of three repeat DWIs.

Texas news sources talked to one popular ignition interlock installation company. That company released its device logs. According to these records, ignition interlock devices reported 600 million sober car starts. The devices also prevented 7 million starts when a driver failed the breath test. This statistic points to the big benefit that many Texans believe justifies imposing them on defendants: it makes more sense to prevent drunk driving than to punish DWIs after they have occurred.

These statistics are impressive, but does that justify the big imposition on Texas drivers? A Texas DWI conviction comes with enough penalties already. Is it reasonable to require an individual to install a permanent device in his or her vehicle?

If you have been accused of DWI in Texas, immediately contact a Dallas DWI attorney at Crain Lewis Brogdon, LLP. Our team is ready to defend you.

Source: KXAN.com, "Reports show breathalyzers in cars work," Angie Beavin, Mar. 26, 2013


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