Stiffer penalties for DUI

Published 8:44 pm Saturday, June 30, 2012

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of stories focusing on new laws that take effect Sunday.

Beginning Sunday, people who drink and drive — even for the first time — risk getting hit with stiffer penalties than ever before in Virginia.

A new law goes into effect Sunday that requires any driver convicted of his first driving under the influence of alcohol charge to have an ignition interlock device installed on his vehicle for six months.


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Suffolk delegate Chris Jones was a co-patron on the bill, which was introduced by Delegate Sal Iaquinto (R-84).

“The cost to society is very high for the carnage of DUI,” Jones said. “I have supported the bill for years. There’s no question in my mind it will save lives.”

An ignition interlock is a device linked to a vehicle’s ignition system. When a convicted drunken driver wants to start his vehicle, he must first blow into the device. The vehicle will not start unless the driver’s blood-alcohol level is below a preset level.

The costs of installing the device must be paid by the offender, adding to the already high cost of being convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving supported the new legislation — and so, it says, does the public. Three different surveys in the last three years have found support levels of 76 to 88 percent for requiring interlocks for all convicted drunken drivers, even first-time offenders.

But according to MADD, the first time a person gets caught is rarely the first time he drove while intoxicated. Research has shown DUI offenders have driven drunk at least 80 times before they are arrested for the first time, according to MADD. In addition, first-time offenders re-offend at a rate similar to that of repeat offenders.

In addition, according to MADD, ignition interlock laws for all DUI offenders in Oregon and Arizona led the rates of drunken driving deaths in those two states to plummet by more than half.