Massachusetts Legislature Weighing Ignition Interlock Devices for First-Time OUI/DUI Offenders

As anyone who has visited my Massachusetts OUI/DUI website pages knows, Massachusetts law currently requires Ignition Interlock Devices for anyone convicted of a 2nd or greater OUI/DUI offense in Massachusetts. Currently, 1st offenders are not required to obtain such a system.

Required by Melanie’s Law since 2006 for anyone convicted or pleading guilty to a second OUI offense or higher, Ignition Interlock Devices require a driver to blow into a dash-mounted device that analyzes the driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC.) If the test register above a .02, the engine will not start. When ordered by a court for multiple OUI/DUI offenders, the defendant must pay for the device and its installation. The devices are only available from a list of state-approved vendors, and they are quite expensive. Further, the driver is required, every month, to download the data stored in the device’s hard drive, to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. The RMV will analyze the data, which will reflect all activity related to the operation of the unit, and critically, all BAC readings each time the operator attempted to start the car.

Recently, an effort has begun in the Massachusetts Legislature to amend the current law, to require the Ignition Interlock Device Program for first-time OUI/DUI convictions. State senator Robert Hedlund (R – Weymouth,) together with the support of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and 7 other state legislators, has sponsored the legislation. The measure, Senate Bill 1746, “An Act Relative to Ignition Interlock Devices,” is currently being debated before the Transportation Committee. The bill’s sponsors point out that presently, 27 states require ignition interlock for first time OUI/DUI offenders, and they argue that statistics have proven that these devices can reduce drunk driving recidivism by a figure as high as 64 percent.

The bill’s proponents further argue that since the ignition interlock program was first required for repeat OUI/DUI offenders in Massachusetts, only 2 of the over 533 persons who have completed the program have been rearrested for drunk driving. Senator Hedlund has stated that “Statistics have shown that about 1/3 of those drivers arrested on DUI/OUI charges will become convicted repeat offenders.” ” David DeIuliis, the interim state director for Massachusetts Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), argues that “Every repeat offender was a first-time offender once,” and that “If the objective is to reduce drunk driving and reduce repeat offenses, an easy way to do it is to take the first offense more seriously.”

When finished with its review of the bill, The Transportation Committee will take one of three possible actions: 1) Recommend the bill as favorable; 2) Report the bill as not favorable, or send to it to a “study committee” (a legislative graveyard.) As Dedham, Massachusetts OUI/DUI defense lawyer, I’ll keep my readers posted on what follows.