Friday, April 26, 2013

Federal IID Bill Could Affect Texas DWI Law

The Drunk Driving Repeat Offender Prevention Act (DDROP), proposed by New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg this past December, could affect the way DWIs are punished in all 50 states. While states are not required to adopt the legislation, if passed the law says the federal government could withhold federal transportation funding from them. This same tactic was successfully used by Lautenberg to get all 50 states to move their drinking ages to 21 and to lower their minimum blood alcohol concentration levels to 0.08. If passed, it's likely Texas will comply. How will this new legislation affect Texas DWI Law?

What's an IID?
DDROP requires that all drivers convicted of drunk driving have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in their vehicle for at least six months. An IID is essentially a small breath analyzer that interacts with a car's ignition. They are sometimes referred to as a "deep-lung breath analysis mechanism" or a "breath alcohol ignition interlock device." The device requires the driver to blow into a straw before the car will start. The IID measures the driver's blood alcohol level and, based on the result, either allows the car to start or prevents the intoxicated driver from driving.

How Effective are IIDs?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have studied the effectiveness of IIDs and have found them to be effective. They found IIDs reduce repeat DWI arrests by 73 percent. 

How Does the Bill Affect Texas?
Texas already uses IIDs, but it's usually up to the judge's discretion. There are some situations where it is mandatory, such as if it's a person's second offense or if the defendant is under 21. Under DDROP, every DWI conviction would require the use of an IID regardless of whether it was a first offense, if someone was hurt or killed, what the driver's blood alcohol level was or any other factors.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other advocacy groups are pushing this legislation hard. Currently, only 10 states have IID requirements that meet DDROP standards. Law enforcement estimates it would cost the state $7 to $12 million to monitor the IIDs required under the new legislation. However, Texas is a large state with thousands of miles of roadways. The financial implications of not complying, and losing federal transportation money, could prove to be greater than non-compliance. Thus, it's likely Texas will adopt DDROP if the Senate and House pass it.

The legislation is currently in the House. We'll keep a close watch on how it develops.