North Carolina Considering Mandatory Ignition Interlock Law

North Carolina lawmakers are deciding whether to pass legislation that would require all drunk driving offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. The state currently has an ignition interlock law, but it does not apply to first-time offenders. The debate over the passage of a mandatory ignition interlock law centers on recidivism or the likelihood that someone will reoffend.

Views on Mandatory Ignition Interlock Laws

Those in favor of mandatory ignition interlock laws, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, point to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The IIHS looked at the records of drivers in Washington before and after the state required interlocks for all drivers convicted of DWI. The study showed that an interlock law that applies to all offenders reduces the chance to reoffend by 11 percent and that a broad use of interlocks lowers the chance of recidivism. Groups who oppose mandatory ignition interlock laws are not so sure.

The American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade group, agrees that ignition interlocks reduce recidivism but only as long as ignition interlocks are present in vehicles. The trade group says the likelihood of reoffending returns as soon as the device is removed from the car.

In recent years, the number of deaths caused by drunken driving has been reduced across the country, but the number has dropped slowly. Ignition interlocks are the latest safety device aimed at reducing crashes and deaths related to drunken driving. North Carolina and six other states are considering mandatory ignition interlock laws that would apply to first-time offenders. Fifteen states currently require all DWI offenders to equip their vehicles with interlocks. Federal legislation may eventually require all states to implement mandatory ignition interlock laws. Congress recently mulled over a transportation funding bill that would provide states with incentives to implement mandatory interlock laws, but the bill has stalled.

The American Probation and Parole Association favors ignition interlocks but not mandatory use. The APPA believes judges should be involved in the decision-making process for first-time offenders.

Current North Carolina Law

In North Carolina certain DWI offenders are required to use ignition interlocks under the present law. Individuals convicted with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent or greater may be required to use an ignition interlock. Repeat offenders are also subject to the law. A person convicted with a second or subsequent DWI offense within seven years of the prior may also be required to use an ignition interlock.

If you have been charged with a DWI in North Carolina, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to review your legal options.