NEW LAW: First-time DUI offenders must have ignition interlock devices on vehicles

A bill-signing ceremony took place Aug. 11 to commemorate the ratification of a new law that will require ignition interlocking devices be installed on vehicles of first-time DUI offenders beginning in mid- 2015.

The new law, which takes effect July 1, 2015, makes a number of changes intended to deter driving under the influence (DUI). This includes strengthening the state’s ignition interlock requirements by authorizing the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to administratively require the devices be installed on cars of first-time DUI offenders.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was joined by state lawmakers, public safety officials and advocates at the bill-signing ceremony Monday in Fairfield.

“This ignition interlock requirement is one of several more stringent penalties and measures we are implementing to combat and reduce the kinds of irresponsible behaviors — like impaired, distracted and reckless driving — that inevitably lead to crashes, injuries and death on our roads and highways,” Malloy said.

How the device works

An ignition interlock is a device about the size of a cell phone that is wired into the ignition system of a vehicle. A convicted drunk driver must blow into the device in order to start their vehicle. If they have a measurable amount of alcohol in their system, the vehicle will not start.

Interlocking devices have been shown to deter drinking and driving, and DUI offenders using interlocks have acknowledged that the devices have changed their behavior.

Had the support of MADD

The new law has the support of the state’s MADD chapter, with organization officials noting that 24 other states already have all-offender ignition interlock device statues.

“Research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicates that first-time offenders have driven drunk at least 80 times before they are arrested,” said Janice Margolis, executive director of Connecticut’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization.

“Ignition interlock devices are effective in reducing repeat drunk driving offenses by 67%. It is expected that the Connecticut law, which goes into effect July 2015, will saves lives in our state,” Margolis said.

What is in the new law

Passed by the General Assembly during the last legislative session, the law will impose penalties imposed when a person is administratively found to have violated drunk driving laws, or is convicted of DUI.

Specifically, the law:

— Reduces the license suspension period for all administrative per se violations to 45 days, but imposes ignition interlock requirements after the suspension ends.

— Eliminates the 90-day waiting period for a special operator’s permit for a first administrative per se violation for refusing to submit to a blood alcohol content test.

— Changes the required license suspension period for someone who fails to use an ignition interlocking device as required.

— Allows the DMV commissioner to impose ignition interlocking device requirements on Connecticut residents following an out-of-state DUI conviction that occurs within 10 years of a previous DUI conviction in Connecticut or another state.

— Decreases, in some cases, the suspension period for drivers under age 21 who are convicted of DUI for the second time.