Timothy O. McCalep

New GA law requires high-BAC first-time DUI offenders to submit to ignition interlock

When a driver is charged with DUI, there are a number of potential consequences if the driver pleads guilty or is convicted. These consequences can include jail time, fines, alcohol abuse education, community service, and other conditions. In many states, use of an ignition interlock device for a period of time is another possible consequence.

Ignition interlock devices prevent one from driving until the driver provides a breath sample indicating he or she is not intoxicated. Ignition interlock devices also report BAC levels to law enforcement and thus allow for ongoing monitoring. Different states have different laws when it comes to requiring the use of ignition interlock devices, some stricter than others. 

Under a Georgia law that went into effect this week, drivers who refuse to provide a blood-alcohol sample and those convicted of DUI with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 percent or higher—even first time offenders—will be required to have an ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicle.

Prior to the law’s passage, Georgia was one of a small number of states that had no law about ignition interlock for first time offenders. Proponents of the law say that it will help prevent drunken drivers from getting back out on the road. While this may be true to an extent, it is also true that drivers abuse ignition interlock devices by having a sober person unlock the device for them.

Ignition interlock devices are not by any means a bad thing—they will likely help ensure greater road safety with respect to drunken drivers. The devices can, however, be burdensome and it is important for those facing drunken driving charges to ensure they build the strongest possible defense case so that their freedoms are not unnecessarily curtailed.

In any drunken driving case, the government has the burden of providing evidence to support the charges, and an experienced attorney can hold the government to its full burden of proof while protecting a DUI defendant’s rights. This includes ensuring that the government provides reliable evidence of the requisite level of intoxication to justify ignition interlock use for first-time DUI offenders.

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