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Repeat DUI offenders may get confiscated licenses back earlier

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Repeat DUI offenders may get confiscated licenses back earlier

A pilot program now underway in Hennepin County will allow offenders who've had their driver's licenses revoked due to multiple DUI convictions to get their licenses back earlier, if they agree to install an ignition interlock device in their car.

A pilot program now underway in Hennepin County will allow offenders who've had their driver's licenses revoked due to multiple DUI convictions to get their licenses back earlier, if they agree to install an ignition interlock device in their car.
An ignition interlock is a device placed in a car which requires the driver to blow into the device before the car will start. The device is a deep lung breath analyzer, and if it measures alcohol in the driver's breath, the car won't start.

Forty-five states have laws either authorizing or requiring the use of ignition interlock for repeat DUI offenders, and in twenty states the device is mandatory. The 2007 Minnesota Legislature chose two counties, Hennepin and Beltrami, to test an ignition interlock program in this state. In July, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety certified the first ignition interlock provider enabling the pilot project to get underway.
"Ignition interlock devices may prove to increase safety for all of us," said Lucy Wieland, chief judge, Fourth Judicial District- Hennepin County District Court. "While DUI offenders get their licenses revoked, it's estimated that 75% of these drivers continue to drive without a valid license and insurance. Each year, alcohol-related crashes injure more then 250,000 people in this country at an estimated cost of more than $115 billion."

The pilot program in Hennepin County is available to most repeat DUI offenders. Here's how it works: current law sets the length of time for which a DUI offender's driver's license will be revoked, based on prior DUI offenses. Under the ignition interlock pilot, those time periods can be reduced if an offender agrees to use the device. For example, right now a person who gets a second DUI offense and also has a blood alcohol test result over .20, or refuses a blood alcohol test, loses their driver's license for 180 days. Under the new pilot program, if the driver agrees to install the ignition interlock in his car, he can get his license back in sixty days.

Prior to the new program, Hennepin County had initiated an ignition interlock pilot as part of its DUI Court specifically for offenders with multiple DUI offenses who had their licenses cancelled, as they were considered a danger to public safety. Such offenders must not only wait for one to two years to be eligible to get their licenses reinstated, but they must complete conditions such as alcohol treatment to be considered for reinstatement. Under the pilot program, if such an offender is in DUI court and agrees to the ignition interlock device, he can get his license back in half the normal time.

Ignition interlock devices incorporate several safety checks to try to prevent cheating. They require rolling retests so that the driver can't have someone blow into it for him, and some of the devices also have a camera that records who is blowing into the device. The device also records data on the breath test, as well as other information regarding how often the car is used and miles driven, which is then downloaded into a computer system for analysis. This allows probation officers to monitor whether the offender is using alcohol or is trying to bypass the device. The two-county legislative pilot program is scheduled to last for two years.


 

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