Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice, known for prosecuting a drunk driver on murder charges, says she is a big proponent of ignition interlocks.
Earlier this year, I wrote about an effort to make them mandatory for drivers convicted of driving while intoxicated, but like much else in Albany, the bill has gone nowhere.
Here’s an excerpt from my March column:
“An ignition interlock is about the size of cell phone; it is installed into the starting circuit of a vehicle. A driver must blow into the interlock, and if he or she has been drinking, the vehicle won’t start. The interlock may also be set for what are called “running retests,” which require a driver to provide breath tests at regular intervals. That’s to prevent a sober friend from starting the car. If the driver fails the retest, the horn will sound and the vehicle’s lights will flash. The idea is to attract the attention of police officers.
New York established an interlock program 20 years ago for Westchester and six other counties that gives judges the discretion to require the locks in certain circumstances. But advocates argue that the interlocks must be mandatory, otherwise their use is low.
State Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. of Long Island has proposed legislation for mandatory locks in New York, but it has not passed. Last year, he called for a pilot program for seven counties, including Westchester, in which everyone convicted of driving while intoxicated, including first-time offenders, would have been required to install ignition interlocks. This year, he is about to introduce a new bill that would encompass the whole state, a measure that MADD supports.”
The legislation was sponsored by Fuschillo, a Republican, and Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, a Democrat from Long Island. It would require everyone convicted of drunk driving, including first time offenders, to install an ignition interlock on all vehicles they use while on probation, at their own expense.
Under current state law, only those convicted of aggravated DWI and who are sentenced to probation are required to install interlocks.
The period of probation would vary based on whether offenders were convicted for the first time or more than once and on blood-alcohol levels.