In Bexar County, Texas, it is not until the third offense that a DWI charge moves from a misdemeanor taken up in County court to a felony taken up in District courts. An analysis of three years worth of court records obtained from the Bexar County District Clerk reveals 52 percent of felony DWI offenders across all Bexar County District Courts get probation in cases where the sentence is decided by a judge. This means that in 700 of the 1,348 cases studied, third time offenders were still put on probation, despite having been put on community supervision for their prior two offenses. One judge cited time between convictions as a factor in his decision. The district does have available alternative sanctions such as ignition interlocks, ankle bracelets, or mandatory blood draws.
Lawmakers in Utah are proposing legislation that would prohibit sobriety checkpoints by law enforcement. HB140 opposes the use of sobriety checkpoints for DUI or other offenses. Sobriety checkpoints involve police stopping and checking motorists on a roadway for impairment. Many Utah legislators disagree on the effectiveness of checkpoints at improving safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has shown that there is no correlation between checkpoint stops and alcohol-related fatalities [though this does not address any changes in non-fatal outcomes such as DUI citation or crashes]. Some believe law enforcement already have enough tools to combat impaired driving while others believe checkpoints help deter the behavior.
Legislation requiring ignition interlocks for first-time drunken driving offenders in Virginia narrowly passed a Senate committee and is headed for the Senate floor. This law would require convicted offenders to have a restricted license with an ignition interlock device for a period of time, often six months. Del. Salvatore Iaquinto proposed the bill and a companion bill has already cleared the House of Delegates. Virginia law currently requires interlocks for repeat drunken drivers or first-time, high BAC offenders. In 2010, drunken drivers killed 274 Virginians and injured another 5,578.
A new law in Connecticut makes it mandatory for first-time convicted DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle. Previous laws required a one-year license suspension for convicted offenders but the new law reduces that to 45 days, plus a year with an ignition interlock. Offenders with two DUI convictions will also serve the 45-day suspension in addition to having an interlock device on their vehicle for three years. The devices cost those convicted about $100 per month, with the cost being paid by the offender, not the state.
Beginning this year, Arizona’s changed ignition interlock law requires that first-time offenders have an ignition interlock device installed for only six-months rather than a year which was the previous standard. Arizona is one of 15 states requiring the devices for first-time offenders and has some of the strictest DUI laws in the country. The state has required mandatory ignition interlocks for first-time offenders since 2007 and makes it the responsibility of the offender to pay for the costs of the device. Alcohol-related fatalities in Arizona have decreased from 399 in 2006 to 210 in 2010 since requiring first-time offenders to install interlocks.