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Charles H. Williams,
Attorney and Counselor
at Law, P.S.
707 South Snoqualmie
Suite 4A
Seattle, WA 98108

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Ignition interlock system: a heavy DUI penalty

In Seattle, a drunk driving conviction carries significant penalties that can change a person's life forever. One of these penalties includes an ignition interlock system, which could cost a defendant more than a thousand dollars simply to install. Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended the use of an ignition interlock system for defendants convicted of drunk driving.

The National Transportation Safety Board has urged all states to require ignition interlock systems, even for first time offenders of drunk driving. An ignition interlock system prevents a driver from starting and driving a vehicle if the driver's alcohol breath test is positive. The device is typically installed on the dashboard of the defendant's vehicle; the driver is to breathe into the device and if the device reads that the driver's blood alcohol level is greater than the device's limit, the vehicle's engine will not start. According to reports, more than 15 states, including Washington, already require the installment of an ignition interlock device for all defendants convicted of drunk driving.

The recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board is strongly opposed by those in the alcohol industry who believe that the device will not allow an individual who has a small amount of alcohol in their system to drive. Those opposed to the recommendation also believe that first time offenders should be treated differently than individuals with prior offenses, and that this penalty would punish first time offenders in the same way as repeat offenders.

A Seattle resident convicted of drunk driving for the first time faces penalties, which may include a minimum of 24 hours in jail or 15 days of electronic home monitoring, $823 in fines, a 90-day license suspension and one year of installed ignition interlock. These penalties may increase depending on the defendant's level of blood alcohol content.

Penalties associated with drunk driving may affect a person's day-to-day activities; therefore, defendants accused of drunk driving should be aware of all possible defenses that may reduce the penalties they face. It is important to remember that all defendants deserve a fair trial and are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

Source: The Seattle Times, "NTSB: Use ignition locks for all drunken drivers," Joan Lowy, Dec. 11, 2012

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