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Druving Under the Influence | Fresno DUI Attorney

Fresno DUI Attorney | Fresno DUI Lawyer

Ignition Interlock for DUI Offenders and Other DUI News

DUI's are political crimes, in the fact that they are closely watched by several organizations and used as a campaign issue for judges, District Attorney's, and other elected officials.  Being tough on drunk driving is a common mantra among those who try to persuade the public to vote for them.

On the state level, there are several changes that are being proposed for DUI's in California.  Once of the main issues is adding a mandatory ignition interlock device to the terms of probation for first offense drunk or Impaired drivers.  A first offense DUI would require a person to install an Ignition Interlock Device in their vehicle.

Many people are not familiar with the term IID.  I hear clients ask, "What is an Ignition Interlock Device (IID)?" on a regular basis. An IID is a lot like a breathalyzer, but it is installed in a vehicle.  The IID will not allow the vehicle to start without first providing a breath sample, or blowing in the IID. If it detects alcohol, the ignition will lock, not allowing the vehicle to start.  This keeps the operator from driving the vehicle while alcohol is present in their breath. Each IID has a pre set limit on the concentration allowed, or zero tolerance.

How a IID works is very similar to how a breath alcohol testing device works, but it stops the ignition of a vehicle if alcohol exceeds a given limit.  California uses a fuel cell technology to determine breath alcohol concentration.  This device traps a small portion of the air exhaled into the machine.  It consumes it, and determines how much fuel was provided in the breath sample.  It is not entirely specific for ethanol alcohol, and can receive false positives for other substances including various types of alcohol, ketones, acetone, etc . . .

Installing an ignition interlock device is mandatory in certain cases, but optional in others.  Providing proof of installation of the IID to the court or DMV may be a factor that helps determine eligibility to apply for and receive a new drivers license after having your drivers license suspended for DUI.  This is more common with second, third, or subsequent DUI's convictions, but also can be applicable to first offenses, especially in pilot counties that require IID's on first offense or as terms of probation.

Some drivers will try to trick the IID, but the IID has several safety features that make this difficult.  The government standards require certain safe guards to avoid bypassing or tricking the IID.  Some require the subject to provide "rolling tests" or tests after the car is started.  The machine monitors the speed of the vehicle, and time since the last test, and decides when is appropriate.  It is less common in freeway driving than traffic or city driving.  Other safeguards may include having the person blow, then suck or inhale on the device for given periods of time.  Some machines have breath temperature detection, to assure a person doesn't use a compressed air canister to provide the sample.  Facial recognition software may be used in the near future or video recording to show the same person who blew in the machine was the operator of the vehicle.

Ignition Interlock Devices can be expensive.  However, as they become more common, installation and monthly monitoring has become more affordable.  It is normal to have between free and $250 installation and $50-$100 for monthly lease price.

One provider who is very affordable is Intoxalock.  Their machines are set usually at a 0.03% concentration to trigger the locking of a vehicles ignition.  The machine includes a mouthpiece, LED screen that displays the relevant reading, and an easy to use activation button.   The machines require the calibration in the state of California every 60 days.  A calibration consists of exchanging your current device for a new one.  During calibration, information can be downloaded and forwarded to the proper monitoring authority, if required.  Intoxalock can be called directly at 88-283-5972

In some instances the court will order an IID to be installed.  This can occur with or without DMV requirement.

Fresno area Law Enforcement Officers use the slogan, "Avoid the 21" to promote awareness of the dangers involved when a person drives while impaired.   Not coincidentally, this year there are 21 separate agencies involved in the campaign.  This involves a large scale anti-DUI campaign in all areas of the central Valley.  It may include checkpoints, bar monitoring by decoys, saturation patrols, and the often quoted never explained "zero tolerance" policy.

Checkpoints have been a long used method to bring awareness to the problem of driving while impaired, along with catching impaired drivers who otherwise may have gone undetected.  Checkpoints have benefits and detraction.  Once benefit is that it scares people, makes them understand that they can be caught, even if they haven't committed a vehicle code violation.  Another benefit is that it brings awareness to the problem of driving under the influence.  However, there are draw backs.  First, and in my opinion the biggest issue is the fact it is a warrant-less detention and search of a person, which seems contrary rights guaranteed to us in the bill of right.  Secondly, it takes a lot of man power to conduct a checkpoint, which could be better used.  Finally, the police seem to use these checkpoints and roving detention and search points, with a relatively small number of arrests coming from actual DUI's.

Technology has also caused DUI checkpoints to be less productive in catching hard-core, or prolific DUI offenders, especially the younger tech savy generation.  There are mobile apps for smartphones that continuously update the locations of DUI checkpoints.  Any tech savy DUI offender who stays at a bar until the early morning hours will assuredly have the availability of an updated list of locations where DUI checkpoints are occurring.  This makes it much less likely that a likely offender who has planned ahead and operates a smart phone will be snared in the DUI checkpoint trap.  This further diminishes the foundation of the high courts ruling that allows this exception to the warrant requirement.  Twitter and facebook are also common social media outlets that routinely have warning of which locations to avoid posted or sent for all to view.

A recent DUI crackdown in Fresno and the surrounding areas resulted in 80 arrests over the course of a weekend prior to Christmas.  The total will surely rise as the crackdown is scheduled to continue through the New Year's holiday.  They expect the total to exceed 100 arrests fro driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs before the holiday season concludes.  The campaign is a joint effort between Fresno Police Department, California Highway Patrol, and the Fresno County Sheriff's Department.

The Holiday season is truly the deadliest time of the year for DUI's.  More parties, travelling, celebration, and depression all combine for a tragic combination.  Thanksgiving eve, the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving is referred to as "Black Wednesday" for the fact that it is the kick off to the Holiday DUI season and the busiest bar night of the year, unofficially.  Thanksgiving is also the day that traffic is most congested with holiday travelers, causing another deadly factor to be combined with the numerous other factors that contribute to the dynamics of the deadly holiday and DUI season.

Federal traffic safety departments have collected data that shows the death toll, per day, from during driving during the holidays is markedly greater than on the rest of the year.  NHTSA says that over a five year span following the turn of the century there are an average of 36 fatal alcohol/drug involved accidents per day, on any given day.  However, that number jumps greatly to 45 people per day during the Christmas period and even worse, 54 per day over the New Years holiday.

A second study of deaths over he holidays over a 10 year period from 1998-2008 showed an even greater rise in deaths (572 total) during the Thanksgiving holiday.  That made Thanksgiving the deadliest 4 day period on American highways.

The government will use slogans such as, "buzzed driving is drunk driving" to bring attention to the DUI problem.  My issue with such slogans is that it conditions jurors to believe the slogan, rather than the jury instructions.  It is legal to have alcohol in your system while driving.  It is illegal to be impaired, or over .08% concentration.  Conditioning society, a pool from which jurors are selected, to believe such slogans interferes with a defendant's right to a proper defense under the law.

Please, be safe over the holidays.

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