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2010 Virginia General Assembly Considers Tougher DUI Laws

The 2010 Virginia General Assembly is currently considering a number of bills to “get tougher on drunk drivers.”  Some of these bills have already been proposed in past years.  For example, one of the bills talks about mandatory ignition interlock on all cars driven by anyone convicted of DUI/DWI.  Under the current law, Virginia Code Section 18.2-270.1, only those first offenders who had a BAC of 0.15 or more above the speed limit or those who had a prior conviction have to get the ignition interlock.  During the discussion of the bill last year, some legislators including State Senator Chap Petersen had the courage to point out that the study showed that the ignition interlock devices often failed and left completely sober motorists dangerously stranded away from home.  There has been nothing done to improve these machines in the past year.  However, groups like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, MADD,  keep pushing the legislation without satisfying the legitimate concerns in these studies.

Another problem with these laws is the fact that Virginia has awarded a monopoly to one company to install these devices.  Therefore, the company has no incentive to get these devices installed immediately so people can keep their jobs.  Once someone is convicted in Virginia, they cannot drive until this device is installed.  However, these individuals are often placed in a Catch 22 because they are unable to get their device installed for a period of time that may even be weeks down the road.

The Mothers Against Drunk Drivers are now trying to go to the federal government to pass a federal ignition interlock bill.  Again, this type of legislation which would deny federal highway funds to any state that didn’t pass such legislation really goes against the idea that the federal government should stay out of state matters.  However, this is the exact strategy that was used when the Clinton administration agreed to a bill that tied receipt of federal highway funds to having a legal limit of 0.08 blood alcohol content. Regardless of your feelings towards alleged drunk drivers, this federal usurpation of states' rights should be concerning to all Americans.

Bob Battle
100% of my practice is devoted to serious traffic defense and criminal litigation in state and federal courts