A California State Senator is starting to push for tougher DUI laws in the state.

On a recent episode of All Things Legal, Ashton & Price attorney Craig Ashton summarized the latest developments:

“So, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and [State Senator] Jerry Hill from San Mateo are proposing that our legislature pass a law [called Senate Bill 1046] that will apply to all of the counties in California, to say that regardless of the number of times you’ve been convicted, or the amount of alcohol in your system, as long as you’re convicted of DUI, that for six months you’ll have an interlocking ignition device on your vehicle that you’ll have to blow in periodically while you’re driving your vehicle to show that you are not under the influence of alcohol.

“For anybody convicted of drunk driving, 0.08 or more, [you will] have an ignition interlock device put on your vehicle… which you’re required to blow into, and then while the car is being driven, periodically you have to blow again, which basically will stop you from driving to a bar, leaving your car going, and then getting back in the vehicle, right? So you have periodic times where you have to blow [into the device in order to keep your car running].”

While the IID bill hasn’t been passed, its provisions are already in effect in some California counties.

Senate Bill 1046 would be a new development for the majority of California, but the suggested law is effectively already in place in some areas of the state. In 2009, California passed Assembly Bill 91, which established a pilot program in which all drivers arrested for a DUI in Sacramento, Los Angeles, Tulare, and Alameda counties would be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in all of their vehicles, before they could be eligible to apply for a restricted driver’s license. The pilot program was originally supposed to expire at the end of 2015. But last September, California passed Senate Bill 61, which extended the program through July 1st, 2017, when it will expire if not extended further or superseded by a law such as SB 1046.

So while the law would be a change for many Californians, residents of Sacramento and the other pilot counties have been living with the provisions of the proposed law since 2010. Outside of the pilot counties, the installation of ignition interlock devices is generally not required unless the driver blows a 0.15 or higher, or the driver has a previous DUI conviction.

Craig went on to explain the rationale behind the legislation backed by MADD: “Mothers Against Drunk Driving said, ‘Look, this is not punitive. This is basically just to allow people to go to and from work, this is not meant to be punishment, it’s just basically recognizing that we want people to be productive. Drinking and driving is a bad thing, but we shouldn’t impact your ability to support your family.’

“I think this is a good idea. I personally support this 100%. If you really wanted to stop DUIs, you would just put these devices on every vehicle… If you make it mandatory in every vehicle that there’s an interlocking device that you have to blow into before you get into the car and will not start if you have any alcohol in your system or over 0.08, that would stop drunk driving in a heartbeat. But guess what? You know who’s going to be against that? Budweiser. The Restaurant Association. Private citizens who want to have a barbecue! And then everybody there will be stuck at their house for the entire weekend.

“Or, you know, it would be good for Uber and Lyft, they’d probably be behind it, and the Taxi Association. So the idea is, we could solve drunk driving tomorrow, with a blanket law in California that says every car that is manufactured and sold in California requires an interlocking ignition device… if you’re drinking, your car will not start.”

Tim Hodson pointed out: “You’d take a lot of money out of a lot of pockets if you did that…”

Ed Schade then hinted at how such a law would likely be an overreach: “Or you could just revert back to the 1920s and call it ‘Prohibition.’”

Craig Ashton: “So, this particular proposal is more circumspect in its application, but, it says, ‘Hey, if you get a DUI, for six months you can go to and from work, but you got to blow into your interlocking device, and ultimately you have to do it periodically so the car can verify [that you’re still sober]. And then that information gets sent to law enforcement, right?”

Tim Hodson: “The readings? No. The readings don’t. [The readings aren’t transmitted, but] the car won’t start. If you blow into it and you have any measurable amount of alcohol in your system the car just either won’t start or it’ll start to gear down if you’re driving… it’ll stop. It’ll literally stop.”

What are the current requirements for having an IID installed in California after a DUI?

Tim then took the time to explain what California drivers can currently expect if they are pulled over for a DUI: “Basically, in Northern California, if you get pulled over and get convicted of a DUI, it’s about a 99.9% chance, whether you blow a 0.08 or a 0.3, that a judge is going to order the ignition interlock device in your car. We do a lot of DUIs in Sacramento, Yolo, El Dorado, Placer County, and as of the first of this year, every judge is pretty much ordering [interlock devices for any DUI]. It’s a D.A.’s recommendation, and the judges are going forward with it.

“Every time someone calls and asks me and asks what their charges are going to be, what their sentencing is going to be, I tell them they need to get the ignition interlock device.”

Craig cut in to ask, “And they have to pay for it, right?”

Tim: “They have to pay for it. You have to get an SR-22 from DMV to give them the permission to drive with the ignition interlock device, and you have to get it installed. You have to get it calibrated every two months. It’s a pain, and it’s expensive. From all the people [that we’ve worked with, they’ve said] that is the biggest deterrent afterwards. [They say], “I never want to have that in my car again.”

The best way to not have to deal with an IID? Don’t drive drunk.

Obviously, the best way to avoid a DUI is to not get behind the wheel after you have been drinking. And it’s looking like California drivers may soon be more motivated than ever to avoid the risk of a DUI, if for no other reason than to avoid the pricey penalty of paying for the installation and maintenance of an IID in every car they own and operate.

Given our experience with DUI cases, we can state first hand that drinking and driving simply isn’t worth it. If you’re lucky, you may simply be stuck with the incredibly costly annoyance of an IID in your car for a few months. If you’re unlucky, you may lose your life, or take the life of an innocent person.

Drunk driving laws are harsh for a reason. Please respect the law and the safety of others, and never drive drunk.