Drunk driving-related accidents and deaths in California were on the decline in recent years, hitting an all-time low in 2011. That year, MADD reports that only 774 deaths were attributed to drunk drivers in this state. Unfortunately, this decline has now been reversed, and rates of drunk driving have begun to increase steadily. With the signing of a new law in late September, Governor Jerry Brown has mandated much tougher penalties for drunk drivers which will begin in 2019.
The new piece of legislation, known as SB 1046, was introduced by Senator Jerry Hill of San Mateo and will expand use of ignition interlock devices (IIDs) statewide. These devices prevent a vehicle from starting until the operator blows into a breathalyzer and proves that he or she is not intoxicated. In a press release issued after the bill was signed into law on September 28, Senator Hill said, “SB 1046 will lead to safer roadways for all Californians. We've already seen this to be true in the four counties conducting the pilot program: Ignition interlock devices (IIDs) have saved lives by preventing more than 1 million attempts to drink and drive since 2010.”
Currently, only four counties in California require DUI offenders to put an IID in their vehicles: Los Angeles, Sacramento, Alameda, and Tulare counties. Beginning in 2019, the following individuals will be required to install and maintain an IID in their vehicles:
- A first DUI offense that also involves an injury, an IID would be required for six months
- A first DUI offense that involves no injuries, an offender may choose a six-month IID requirement with full driving privileges, or a one-year restricted license that would allow only driving to and from work if the offender also participates in a treatment program
- A second DUI offense, an IID would be required for one year
- A third DUI offense, the IID requirement is two years
- A fourth or subsequent DUI offense, the IID requirement is three years
There will be some incentives for individuals who make the decision to install an IID shortly after they are arrested for DUI but prior to conviction: they will be required to maintain the IID for a shorter duration, and they will maintain full driving privileges.
In most cases, individuals convicted of or arrested for DUI will be required to pay for the installation and maintenance of their own IID. It costs between $70 and $150 to install one of these devices, and the operating cost is about $3 per day (between $60 and $80 per month). Low-income offenders will be allowed to pay for only a percentage of IID costs, and the provider of the IID will be required to pay the remaining balance.
A report by the DMV published in June 2016 shared the following statistics showing the effectiveness of IID enforcement:
- First offenders: IIDs are 74 percent more effective than license suspension in preventing repeat offenses
- Second offenders: IIDs are 70 percent more effective than license suspension in preventing repeat offenses
- Third and subsequent offenders: Pilot program IID drivers have a significantly lower odds or hazards of a subsequent DUI conviction and DUI incidents
With the passage of this law, California joins 28 states and the District of Columbia in mandating IIDs for DUI offenders. According to Senator Hill's press release, this law will also require the California Transportation Agency to evaluate the pilot program of the IID mandates and report on them by January 2025. If the pilot program is not modified or extended, it will end on January 1, 2026.
Drunk driving fatalities and accidents are 100% preventable, and preventing previous offenders from operating vehicles after they have had a drink will likely reduce the ugly statistics associated with California DUIs. However, while those convicted of DUI should absolutely be prevented from repeating their potentially deadly mistakes, it is also the case that many individuals are wrongfully accused of and arrested for drunk driving in California. If you or your loved one has been arrested for DUI in the Los Angeles area and you need the support of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, please contact us to schedule a legal consultation.