As of July 9, 2018, the laws surrounding DUI cases in Alabama got tougher. For years the state only required certain first-time offenders to install an interlock ignition device in their vehicle. The new law states that many more first offenders will need to have the device in their vehicle, and all subsequent offenders will be required to have it as well.
An interlock ignition device is essentially a Breathalyzer test that is available within the vehicle. Before operating the vehicle, the driver blows into the device and if any alcohol is detected on the breath, the vehicle will become inoperable.
The bill was originally sponsored by Senator Jim McClendon. It states that upon a first conviction, drivers can voluntarily choose to install the device if their blood alcohol content is lower than 0.15 percent. Anything higher, and the device will need to be installed, even for a first offense.
Any DUI conviction after a first offense will result in a mandatory installation of the device for anyone that had a blood alcohol content higher than 0.08 percent at the time of arrest. If a violation occurs after the device has been installed, the time period for drivers requiring the device will extend six additional months.
Violations could include a recorded blood alcohol content greater than 0.02 percent more than four times within a month, any tampering with the device, or trying to bypass the device. Drivers that have been required to get the device installed will also be required to get it serviced and calibrated every 30 days.
“While it is important to keep drunk drivers off the roads,” says Whitney Polson of Polson & Polson, P.C., “the new law could also be unfair to drivers. Even with regular servicing, machines are prone to error. When that happens, it will be the driver of the vehicle that pays for those errors. Even something as small as taking certain types of medication or using mouthwash could account for the low 0.02 percent blood alcohol content that would be the only acceptable level.”
Lawmakers claim the new law will close loopholes, as those in pretrial diversion were not previously required to install the devices. Others however, say it is counterproductive, as those same offenders still had to submit to drug tests that would show if they had been drinking. Now, as those programs become more expensive due to the installation of interlock ignition devices, it may actually deter some from entering into pretrial diversion.