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Michigan Study Shows Ignition Interlock Reduces Drunk Driving

A study out of Michigan was released today and showed that the use of ignition interlock helps to reduce drunk driving. The North Carolina Court of Appeals has described the ignition interlock device as requiring

a driver to pass an alcohol test by blowing into the device. The results are then recorded as logged events. If the device recognizes alcohol through the breath test, the vehicle is programmed not to start. Occasionally, an alcohol test will also be required while the vehicle is running.

Cole v. Faulkner, N.C. App. 2002

The Michigan study was designed to “determine whether ignition interlock devices are an effective means to control drunk driving recidivism among chronic DWI offenders when incorporated into a DWI/Sobriety Court program.” The Michigan DWI/Sobriety Court program is a voluntary treatment program that can be entered as part of a plea agreement. To be eligible for the program, a person must have at least one other DWI conviction within the past seven years or three or more convictions within the past ten years. The program is 12-24 months in length and has a goal of abstinence of alcohol.

The study compared two groups: those in a DWI/Sobriety Court program who were not ordered to use ignition interlock and those in a DWI/Sobriety Court program who were ordered to use ignition interlock. The data showed that 97% of those drivers who were ordered to use the ignition interlock device complied with that order. About 0.5% of drivers removed the ignition interlock without authorization, and about 1.2% tampered with the ignition interlock.

Not only were the ignition interlock users more likely to graduate from the DWI/Sobriety Court program (a failure rate of 12% versus a failure rate of 34%), they were also less likely to drive while impaired in the future. The study looked at data at the one-, two-, and three-years marks after the initial conviction and found that at all three marks the recidivism rate was lower for ignition interlock users. One year after the initial conviction, 1% of ignition interlock users had received another DWI offense, while 2.6% of non-users had received another DWI offense. Two years after the initial conviction, 1% of ignition interlock users had received another DWI offense, while 4.8% of non-users had received another DWI offense. And three years after the initial conviction, 2.8% of the ignition interlock users had received another DWI offense, while 5% of non-users had received another DWI offense. The study notes that the reductions in recidivism are statistically significant at the one- and two-years marks.

North Carolina also uses ignition interlock in certain DWI cases. In North Carolina, a limited driving privilege or license restoration can be subject to the agreement to use an ignition interlock device. G.S. 20-179.3(g3)(3) allows a judge to include in any limited driving privilege order the condition that a driver use an interlock device. If a driver’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.15 or more, a judge is required to include the interlock device as a condition to granting limited driving privileges. G.S. 20-179.3(g5) states that

If a person's drivers license is revoked for a conviction of G.S. 20-138.1, and the person had an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more, a judge shall include all of the following in a limited driving privilege order:

(1)    A restriction that the applicant may operate only a designated motor vehicle.

(2)    A requirement that the designated motor vehicle be equipped with a functioning ignition interlock system of a type approved by the Commissioner, which is set to prohibit driving with an alcohol concentration of greater than 0.00. The Commissioner shall not unreasonably withhold approval of an ignition interlock system and shall consult with the Division of Purchase and Contract in the Department of Administration to ensure that potential vendors are not discriminated against.

(3)    A requirement that the applicant personally activate the ignition interlock system before driving the motor vehicle.

For purposes of this subsection, the results of a chemical analysis presented at trial or sentencing shall be sufficient to prove a person's alcohol concentration, shall be conclusive, and shall not be subject to modification by any party, with or without approval by the court.

In addition, a driver whose blood alcohol concentration was 0.15 or more is required to have the interlock device as a condition to the restoration of his driver’s license at the end of the revocation period. G.S. 20-17.8(a) subjects drivers convicted of DWI to an interlock device following restoration of their license when

(1)    The person had an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more;

(2)    The person has been convicted of another offense involving impaired driving, which offense occurred within seven years immediately preceding the date of the offense for which the person's license has been revoked; or

(3)    The person was sentenced pursuant to G.S. 20-179(f3).

G.S. 20-17.8(a1) is effective until December 31, 2016 and requires drivers convicted of habitual DWI to use the interlock device upon the restoration of their drivers license. If the original license revocation period was one year, then the period of time during which the driver must use the interlock device is also one year. If the original revocation period was four years, then the interlock device must be used for three years, and if the original revocation period was permanent, then the interlock device must be used for seven years. If a person violates the requirements in G.S. 20-17.8, they will be charged with driving with a revoked license pursuant to subsection (f).

If you have been charged with DWI, contact an attorney at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC (704) 714-1450, to discuss your options.

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