Harsher Penalties v. IIDs

DUI penalties vary across the country, but typically, a first time offender will not spend time in jail, but will lose his or her license for a period of time. The offender may be forced to attend alcohol education classes and might have to pay a fine. Most DUI offenders will either lose their auto insurance, or the rates will sky rocket. Ignition interlock systems are an option and in at least 13 states, first time offenders will have to have the device installed in his or her vehicle after a conviction. Of course, subsequent offenders will have more serious punishments. Depending on the state laws, once a DUI offense becomes a felony, punishment can include prison time for an extended period of time.

Some states, DUI penalties not only depend on whether this is a first, second, or subsequent offense. Pennsylvania, for example, has a three-tiered system in which the penalty depends on the offender’s BAC. That means the higher the BAC, the harsher the punishment.

Nearly all the states have some sort of law on the books about ignition interlock devices. So should these devices be used more often by judges sentencing DUI offenders? Historically, judges do not hand down sentences that include an ignition interlock device possibly because there isn’t enough research to convince them that these devices are effective. Some judges feel the device is too harsh a penalty for first time offenders, and too lenient for repeat offenders. There is also the issue of cost. The DUI offender is responsible for all fees associated with the device, unless the offender is indigent. Although costs are less than $3.00 a day, which is much less than a DUI offender may otherwise have to pay in fines, legal fees and alcohol education classes. Some judges are still unsure about the technology effectiveness of an ignition interlock device. Plus, there is hesitancy about how the individual will be monitored once the device is installed.

The truth of the matter is that an ignition interlock device is a much more humane punishment for a DUI offender, especially a first time offender. Dealing with the embarrassment surrounding an ignition interlock device in one’s car is much less humiliating than suffering a second DUI. Plus, habitual offenders will be forced to stay off the streets, thus keeping everyone safer. Therefore the benefit is two-fold. DUI offenders must comply with the device or suffer the consequences. Plus, It is nearly impossible for the offender to drink and drive with the device installed in his or her vehicle.

Again, costs for an ignition interlock device amount to about $3 a day, while the costs for a guilty plea in court could run close to $15,000 over a lifetime. Clearly the ignition interlock device is less cost-prohibitive than a guilty plea. Also, keeping offenders out of jail means their families will not suffer because of a DUI conviction. Children can still be driven to school, activities and church. The offender can continue to provide for his family while safely driving to and from work.

Harsher penalties for felony DUI offenders may be the best answer, but after the offender comes out of jail, an ignition interlock system can be the safest way to ease him or her back into society and back behind the wheel.

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