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Legislature passed bill requiring drivers with a DUI to use an interlocking device

Whiskey with car keys and handcuffs concept for drinking and driving

Last week, the Alabama Legislature forwarded legislation to the governor requiring that motorists with a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) to install an interlock device on their motor vehicle.

An ignition interlock is a device that prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking alcohol. Like a breathalyzer, an ignition interlock measures the alcohol in a person’s system. If that amount exceeds a pre-programmed level, then the interlock temporarily locks the vehicle’s ignition.

Senate Bill One was sponsored by State Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, and was carried in the Alabama House of Representatives by State Representative Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked McClendon if all the amendments and conference committee changes to the bill had weakened it.

McClendon said, “No,” it still does what we wanted it to do and that is require that first time after first DUIs that interlocks be required.

APR asked if McClendon expected this to decrease drunk driving and motor vehicle deaths.

McClendon said that based on what we have seen in other states that he expects that we will see a decrease in deaths.

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InitTo take the test, the driver simply blows into the device. If the sample is good, then the vehicle will start as usual. If alcohol is detected, the driver must wait before testing again. The first time alcohol is detected, the wait time is a few minutes, but if subsequent tests are failed the driver is locked out for increasingly longer periods.

In most states the data received from all breath samples are sent to the authority (court/DMV/probation, etc.) that ordered the device to be installed. A majority of U.S. States and Canadian provinces now use ignition interlocks as an alternative to revoking driving privileges. Interlock devices prevent drunk driving while giving those with DUI convictions the opportunity to work, attend school, and perform other essential tasks.

State Representative Christopher John England, D-Tuscaloosa, was concerned that the indigent could not afford to purchase or lease the interlock devices. Responding to his concerns, the bill provides for the distribution of court fees to provide for ignition interlock services for the indigent under certain conditions.

The State Senate concurred with the final conference committee report on Wednesday, March 28, but the House did not vote to concur until Thursday, the last day of the 2018 legislative session. The first time that SB1 came out of conference committee England made a motion to non-concur with the conference committee and send it back to them for more work.

That motion carried and the bill went back to committee where the conference committee substituted much of SB301. That second conference committee version is what was ultimately passed both houses.

SB1 is now awaiting action by Gov. Kay Ivey.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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