Quite frequently, legislators will look for ways to make drunk driving laws even more stringent than they already are. Although drunk driving laws are generally regulated on a state-to-state basis, a bill recently introduced in the federal legislature takes a "comply or else" approach to changing statutes nationwide.
As we discussed in a recent blog post, first-time driving under the influence convictions lead to ignition interlock requirements only under certain circumstances in Florida. The previously mentioned piece of federal legislation, if passed, could turn the current policy on its head.
According to the bill, states would be compelled to change their laws to make it a requirement for first-time DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed. Any alcohol detected on the driver’s breath would prevent vehicles from starting, which also seems to be a different standard than what is currently true in Florida.
Reports indicate that the bill establishes an Oct. 1 deadline for states to install this new policy. Failure to adopt the new interlock standard would result in reductions to a state's federal transportation funding. This means that states have a couple months to adopt this policy or risk being able to support critical infrastructure that people count on. In other words, state legislators may feel forced to comply with the will of the federal government.
This bill has already raised some concerns. Some observers indicate that first-time offenders aren't necessarily an ongoing threat to public safety. People can learn from mistakes, and many first-time offenders make sure they do not repeat. For these individuals, being required to use an interlock device could create an undue burden.
Source: WSTP, "Stricter ignition interlock legislation proposed," Andre Senior, July 8, 2014