A new bill is being proposed in New Hampshire that could let first time DUI offenders keep their right to drive. A recent article in the Eagle Tribune talks about a bill that is coming to a vote that will let first time DWI offenders apply for ignition interlock device installation and be able to keep their licenses. The bill is expected to go to a vote in early January and the idea behind it is that offenders who lose their licenses due to a DWI conviction may lose their jobs or fail out of school because of their inability to get to classes and work.
An ignition interlock device (IID) is a small device that must be installed in the driver's side of all vehicles that an offender uses on a regular basis. The device requires the driver to give a breath sample before starting the engine. In New Hampshire, an IID device will not allow the engine of a vehicle to start if the breath sample shows that the driver has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02% or greater. These devices are designed to allow people convicted of alcohol-related crimes to be able to drive without having to worry about them driving while intoxicated. MADD reports that drunk driving deaths can decrease by as much as 30% when all-offender interlock laws are in place.
IID devices as well as this new bill have the support of anti-drunk driving advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). MADD has long been a proponent of ignition interlock use as these devices are a way to ensure that drivers do not repeat their bad decisions and also allows them to continue to contribute to society and support their families. The article notes that studies have shown that up to 70 percent of first time DWI offenders continue to drive even after license suspension. This bill would allow offenders who have been convicted of a first-time DWI to continue to drive legally as well as make sure they do not commit a repeat offense.
Currently, under RSA 265-A:18, a person convicted of DWI in New Hampshire can face 9 months to 2 years of license suspension. This can have a big impact on their ability to work and care for their families. Under this proposed bill, drivers convicted of DWI will have to install these devices in their vehicles, pay about $80 a month to maintain them and pay a $50 fee for a special privilege license.
There are also people who object to this proposed bill. Some believe that license suspension is a big deterrent against drunk driving. They feel that a person may be less likely to take drunk driving seriously if they know that they will be able to pay a fine and keep driving. The Eagle Tribune article quotes Michael Sielicki, president of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police as saying:
“New Hampshire has some of the strongest DWI laws. To water them down doesn't seem practical to us.”
This bill seems like a great way for everyone to benefit. A DWI offender will still have the penalty of using the IID on a daily basis as well as paying for its upkeep. In addition, they will be able to be productive members of society and provide for themselves and their family. Perhaps most importantly, these devices will not allow the driver to drink and drive keeping the roads safe for everyone.