All across the country, authorities are cracking down on drinking and driving. Penalties for drunk driving offenses are becoming more and more severe. On March 8, 2012, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell signed a bill instituting some of the most stringent DUI penalties in the country. Virginia drivers should be aware of the changes, which expand the state’s ignition interlock laws, before they go into effect in the summer of 2012.
Ignition Interlock Devices
An ignition interlock is a device that will not allow a car to start unless the driver provides a breath sample by blowing into a tube attached to the device. The device operates similarly to a hand-held breathalyzer, and if it detects alcohol in the breath sample the driver gives, it will log the result and not allow the car to start.
Additionally, the driver must supply further breath samples at random intervals during the trip. If the device detects alcohol in one of those breath samples, the device will issue a warning and then give some kind of an alarm, such as honking the horn or flashing the lights, which will continue until the driver shuts off the ignition.
Details of the New Virginia DUI Law
Currently, Virginia law requires only those who have multiple driving under the influence (DUI) convictions or those who had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 percent or higher at the time of their first offenses to use ignition interlock devices. Beginning on July 1, 2012, everyone convicted of a DUI — even first-time offenders with BACs near the legal limit of 0.08 percent — will have to install ignition interlock devices on their vehicles in order to qualify for a provisional driver’s license during the mandatory license-suspension period.
Experts estimate that the new law will increase the number of people required to use ignition interlock devices fourfold, to over 18,000 drivers. Opponents of the law fear that it will disproportionately burden the poor, who will not be able to afford the substantial costs associated with ignition interlock devices. Opponents also believe many who cannot afford the devices will simply end up driving without licenses, since they need to get to their jobs to make ends meet.
Consult an Attorney
The new law demonstrates how seriously Virginia authorities take DUI offenses. If you are facing DUI charges, talk to an experienced lawyer today who can help defend your rights.