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Should first-time DWI offenders have to install an ignition interlock system?

Should first-time DWI offenders have to install an ignition interlock system?

A bill authored by Rep. Kim Norton, D-Rochester, to stiffen penalties for first-time drunk driving offenders is being dropped for a less strict version.

Under Norton's bill, first-offenders would need to have an ignition interlock system installed in their vehicle for one year. Second-time offenders would be required to have it installed for two years. 

Offenders would be on the hook for the cost of the device.

 
 

However, Norton said Thursday that House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee Chairman Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, has instead elected to hear a separate House bill requiring the devices after two DWI convictions.

"It's a missed opportunity to do the right thing, but it at least moves us in the right direction," Norton said in an email.

In a committee hearing on Wednesday, Norton was joined by Sandy and Hilary Melville. The couple's son, Austin, was killed by a repeat drunken driver as he crossed a Rochester street in 2010. 

 
 

"Applying ignition interlocks for all offenders will not only deter many from excessive drinking and driving, but it will also change the social attitude that this is OK to do,” Sandy Melville told the committee.

Already, 25 states have made the interlock systems mandatory after a first offense. The devices force drivers to prove they are sober — by blowing into a breathalyzer — before they can turn on their vehicle.

Current law requires first-time offenders, as well as repeat offenders, arrested at 0.16 and above to use ignition interlock in order to regain legal driving privileges or face at least one year without a driver’s license.


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(Cover photo: File / James Palinsad / CC)

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