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Federal ignition interlock bill being introduced

Drunk driving laws are something that is in the control of the states. This gives states the flexibility to mold their DWI laws to what they think will be best for their citizens. What one state views as the best DWI policy may be quite different from what another state sees as best. Thus, unsurprisingly, the types of charges that a person can face for drunk driving, the potential sentences and penalties for drunk driving and the types of things that can cause a person to face enhanced charging or sentencing in relation to drunk driving can vary quite a bit from state to state.

Occasionally, the federal government takes efforts to step in and get all the states to adopt a certain drunk driving policy. While the federal government generally cannot simply order a state to have a certain type of drunk driving law in place, there are actions the federal government can take to heavily influence state DWI policies. One of these is to pass legislation which essentially gives states an ultimatum: adopt a certain type of DWI law or face the loss of certain types of federal funds.

A bill proposing using this tactic to get states to mandate a certain type of penalty for drunk driving offenses is now coming before Congress. The bill, scheduled to be introduced in the House of Representatives today, would make it so states could lose federal transportation funding if they do not require a minimum of six months of having an ignition interlock device for all DWI offenders (including first-time offenders) who wish to continue to drive. Currently, the states vary quite a bit in their laws on ignition interlock devices for DWI offenders.

Proponents of the legislation argue that ignition interlock device requirements are one of the best ways to prevent individuals who have been convicted of drunk driving from committing further drunk driving offenses, and thus could help make roads across the country safer.

There are some concerns though that can come up when it comes to ignition interlock devices. They put a financial burden on those who are ordered to have them and they have the potential to be stigmatizing.

What do you think of the proposed legislation? Should the federal government be trying to directly influence policy when it comes to ignition interlock devices or should they be leaving this issue up to the states?

Source: Forbes, “New Ignition Interlock Legislation Aims To Save Thousands From Drunk Driving Deaths,” Tanya Mohn, July 7, 2014

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