Motorists with multiple drunk driving convictions in Texas have faced stiff penalties for years, including the requirement of an ignition interlock device that prevents a vehicle from starting if the operator has been drinking. Starting Sept. 1, 2015, first-time offenders may also be subject to this punishment.
In June, Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 2246, which is intended to cut down on drunk driving in Texas. The law was previously passed by both houses of the state legislature, unanimously in the Senate and 143-1 in the House. The language of the bill requires judges to punish first-time DWI offenders with either license suspension or ignition interlock.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the number of deaths due to drunk driving collisions have dropped by more than 40% in many of the states that have enacted similar laws. Texas is the 25th state to implement legislation allowing for an interlock device as part of the penalty for a DWI.
How Does An Ignition Interlock Device Work?
The technology behind the ignition interlock device measures the amount of alcohol in a driver’s blood system when he or she blows into the mouthpiece. If the machine detects ethyl alcohol in the operator’s breath, the vehicle will not start. In order to avoid fraud, such as having a person who hasn’t been drinking blow into the machine, cars are fitted with a camera.
How Is DWI Punishment Determined?
A person who has been convicted of a DWI must meet certain conditions in order to be eligible for an interlock device, as opposed to the alternative penalty of license suspension.
The offender must apply for an ignition interlock device; and,
The driver must enroll in and attend a court-approved program focusing on counseling and rehabilitation for people with alcohol dependency issues. Proof of enrollment must be included with the application for an ignition interlock device.
At his or her discretion, a judge may require the program coordinator to periodically report on whether the person is actually attending sessions. If an offender is found to be in violation of this requirement, the Texas Department of Transportation may suspend the ignition interlock license until it receives proof of program attendance.
If you’ve been convicted of DWI, you may be eligible for an ignition interlock device, enabling you to drive as necessary and avoid the disruption that a license suspension can cause in your life. The application process is somewhat complex and you risk rejection if you attempt to navigate the process on your own, so it's smart to consult with an attorney experienced in these matters. For more information on applying for an ignition interlock device and additional information on drunk driving cases, please contact Stockard, Johnston, Brown & Netardus, P.C. in Amarillo, Texas.