Will Federal Incentives Lead to Tougher California DUI Laws?

Most local community members in Sonoma County, Mendocino County and Lake County assume that laws affecting them related to DUI stem from the California government.  After all, issues like safe driving laws are always the domain of state governments, and rules about penalties for drunk driving in our part of the state would likely come from the California legislature, without the federal government playing a role.  However, that view misses some of the complexity in the interplay between state and federal laws.

While the federal government does not directly pass criminal laws related to drunk driving in California, they do have ways to influence how individual state decide to pass laws.  Most notably, this includes promising to give funds to states for passing certain rules or, conversely, threatening to take away funds if states fail to comply.  In other words, federal transportation officials often have many indirect ways of influencing legal rules in individual states.  On many occasions those officials have sought to use that influence to alter how states deal with things like DUI laws.

Federal Incentives to Toughen DUI Laws

For example, the Obama Administration is working to complete a set of several new motivations for states to toughen their drunk driving laws. A report indicates that the incentives, which the government finalized in October, would include a $20 million program meant to coax all states to enact laws requiring ignition interlocking devices (IIDs) for persons convicted of DUI offenses.

Currently, only 17 states require persons convicted of DUI to install ignition interlocking devices in their vehicles.  The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, David Strickland, strongly supports required usage of the devices in every state. “The one thing we know is ignition interlocks work,” Strickland said.

In California, the requirement exists as a pilot project. Started in 2010, the project requires that persons convicted of DUI in certain counties must install the device in their vehicle.   Most locations in our area–Mendocino County, Lake County and Sonoma County– are not included as part of that pilot project.  However, at times a judge may order a person to install an IID as part of his or her sentence of probation.

DUI Ignition Interlock DeviceAn IID is an electronic device that is slightly larger than a cell phone in size and is wired to a vehicle’s ignition system. Technicians can typically install IIDs into vehicles very quickly, usually while the driver waits. Once installed, the device requires the driver provide a breath sample before allowing the ignition to engage and the engine to start. If the IID concludes that the driver’s breath sample contains alcohol, it will prevent the engine from starting. Additionally, the device occasionally requires the driver to submit breath samples in order to make sure the driver is still alcohol-free.

The California DMV has concluded that IIDs work. According to the DMV’s web site, “The International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety maintains that IIDs, when combined with a comprehensive monitoring and service program, lead to a 40-95% reduction in the rate of repeat drunk driving offenses among offenders as long as the IID remains on the vehicle.” Given this success, it is no surprise that, in 2010, the state passed legislation permitting courts to impose reduced suspension/revocation periods for second or third-time DUI offenders who install the devices and obtain an IID restricted driver’s license. Furthermore, persons whose licenses have been revoked due to three or more convictions may be eligible for early reinstatement of their licenses if they install an IID, obtain an IID restricted license and have served five years of their license revocation period.

Taken together, the California pilot project and the federal push means that tougher and tougher DUI laws might be on the way in our state.

However, no matter what happens in the future, whenever you are facing a DUI charge, it is important to consult a knowledgeable DUI attorney. Options may exist for persons convicted of DUI in California, including submitting to the use of an IID and an IID restricted license.  Beck Law P.C. Santa Rosa DUI lawyers can help you discover what options are available to you. Contact the Beck Law P.C. Santa Rosa DUI law office to arrange for a free and confidential initial consultation and discover if you are eligible for using an IID and if agreeing to use this device can help you.



The information on this website should not be considered to be legal advice, nor construed to be the formation of any manner of attorney client relationship. Prior to taking any form of legal action, please consult with an attorney experienced in the appropriate area of law germane to your situation. Case results and any blogs, reviews, news or testimonials presented on www.duibecklaw.com or any of its related websites are germane to the facts present for each individual case and is not a promise of similar outcomes for any other cases. This website is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of California. by Attorney Daniel B. Beck