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

Phone:206-707-8524
Toll free:800-854-3458
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Are ignition interlock systems effective as a DUI penalty?

Being convicted of drunk driving may mean more than having to pay a fine or spend a few nights in jail. Another penalty of a DUI charge may be the installation of an ignition interlock system and a loss of license. Recently, a vehicular homicide has led many in Seattle to consider whether ignition interlock systems are beneficial as DUI penalties.

A vehicular homicide that occurred in March has led many Seattle residents to consider the realistic implications of installing an ignition interlock system. According to police, a man who had been arrested numerous times for drunk driving caused an accident that killed a couple from Indiana. The incident also seriously injured the couple's daughter-in-law and grandchild. Court records show that two judges separately told the man he could not drive without an ignition interlock system. Yet, police say that at the time of the fatal accident, the man was driving his car without the system installed. One state prosecutor stated that realistically, the state cannot force an individual to install an ignition interlock system if the individual insists they will not be driving.

Seattle authorities intended for ignition interlock systems to be used as a way to prevent drunk driving. The device measures a driver's blood alcohol concentration level and will disable the car's ignition and prevent the car from starting if the driver's blood alcohol content is above the state's legal limit. However, there are only a few police officers in the entire state of Washington who are in charge of ensuring the devices are installed in vehicles. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Licensing notes that there are many drivers in Washington driving with suspended licenses instead of using the ignition interlocks.

A person accused of a DUI must consider the present and future implications of a possible conviction for drunk driving; a permanent criminal record or a driver's license revocation can curtail a person's ability to seek employment opportunities or keep their current job. In addition, having to use an ignition interlock can severely damage one's reputation in the workplace or in front of friends and family. While the effectiveness of such penalties can be debated, their implications for convicted drunk drivers are clear.

Source: The Seattle Times, "Ignition-lock reality: many don't use device, still drive," Sara Jean Green, March 28, 2013

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