New Jersey Legislators Debate Ignition Interlock Statute
Following the lead of lawmakers in other states, New Jersey legislators have introduced a law to expand the use of ignition interlock devices for individuals convicted of DWI. Current law requires installation of the device for repeat offenders with a blood alcohol content or .15 or higher. The proposed legislation would mandate an ignition interlock for first-time offenders with a BAC of .08 (the legal threshold) to .14, but would allow them to drive with an ignition lock for 3-12 months in lieu of a having their license suspended. In addition, if the defendant triggers the interlock device, the length of time may be extended or driving privileges may be suspended.
Under the proposed law, the presiding judge would be granted a certain amount of discretion. Based on the facts of the case, the judge could also suspend the defendant’s driving privileges, in addition to requiring the use of an ignition interlock.
An ignition interlock requires that a person blow into a device before the vehicle will start. If the device detects alcohol, the vehicle will be disabled.
Lawmakers say the legislation is necessary because simple license suspensions are not very effective. They cite studies conducted in numerous states that show that at least half of people convicted of drinking and driving ignore their license suspensions. They estimate that one in every three DWI arrests involves a repeat offender. Research indicates that repeat offenders are four times more likely to be involved in a fatal traffic accident as first time offenders.
The bill was approved by the New Jersey Assembly in 2014, and the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee has passed it. It must be voted on by the full Senate and signed by the governor to become law.
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