Tough New Law Will Impact All Virginia Drivers Convicted of Drunk Driving By "Timothy J. Quick" (8-6-2012)

Beginning on July 1, 2012, one of the nation's toughest drunk driving laws took effect in Virginia. The new law requires all drivers convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol who receive restricted driver's licenses to install ignition interlock devices, also called IIDs, in their vehicles. Prior to this law taking effect, only first-offense drunk drivers with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 percent or higher and repeat offenders were required to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.

Proponents of the new law believe that IIDs help deter people from repeatedly driving drunk. An analysis of 13 studies by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that recidivism rates among convicted drunk drivers with IIDs were reduced by a median of 67 percent. And, with 37 percent of traffic fatalities in Virginia stemming from drunk-driving accidents, according to the state Department of Transportation, attempts to save lives by requiring IIDs should be lauded.

However, opponents of the law, which include a group of public defenders, argue that the law goes too far, reports the Washington Post. Opponents believe the law is too severe a punishment for people convicted of drunk driving solely for having a BAC of 0.08, but no additional charges for harming others. Also, opponents point out that ignition interlock devices are expensive and the cost will disproportionately impact low-income Virginians.

Ignition Interlock Devices

Once installed, ignition interlock devices require drivers to provide breath tests before their vehicles will start. If the device detects a BAC above a certain minimal level, the car will not start.

To prevent drunk drivers from asking sober people to take clean IID breath tests for them in order to start vehicles, the ignition interlock devices will require drivers to provide additional breath tests while the vehicles are being driven, typically 10 to 20 minutes after starting and then approximately every 30 minutes after that.

The new law is an indication of how seriously Virginia officials consider drunk driving. Your defense needs to be just as serious. Along with the installation of ignition interlock devices, drivers face steep fines, mandatory jail time if caught with BACs over 0.15, and the loss of their driver's licenses if convicted of drunk driving. Speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have been accused of DUI.