DUI Interlock

[update: the legislative session ended and the repeal was not enacted. In other words, the interlock will be required for all DUI offenders. Rep. John Kavanagh had a lengthy letter advocating repeal in the Tucson Citzen]

Earlier in this legislative season, AZ lawmakers passed and the governor signed a bill that requires a DUI ignition interlock device be installed for any DUI conviction. Previously interlocks were required only on repeat DUI offenders, or extreme-DUI convictions. A new bill/amendment has been introduced which would reverse the interlocks for first-time offenders. (it would be unusual to pass and rescind a law in the same legislative session)

There seems to be endless legislative fiddling with DUI penalties.

Lawmakers attempt retreat from tough DUI amendment

By Doug Murphy, Friday June 15, 2007, Ahwatukee Foothills News

When lawmakers created a new “extreme-extreme” drunk-driving law last month, support was overwhelming to require 45 days in jail the first time anyone is caught with a blood alcohol level of 0.20 percent or higher.

But when Tempe Democrat David Schapira added a floor amendment in the House that also required an interlocking device for first-time drunk drivers who exceed the minimum of 0.08 percent, most lawmakers thought that was a little extreme and assumed the device would be pulled out of the bill in a conference committee between House and Senate members.

But, instead, the Senate thought the device, which requires a driver to blow into it to show they have not had any alcohol before the vehicle will start, was a good idea and passed the amended bill, which Gov. Janet Napolitano signed into law in May.

Now, House members are trying to rush through legislation that will nullify the law they passed last month.

Rep. John McComish made it clear that he favors the tough interlocking devices for extreme DUI and repeat offenders, but he’s concerned about requiring the device for first-time offenders.

“The data seems to indicate that in those states that have it (interlocking devices) don’t seem to have an impact on safety or lives,” McComish said.

“I’m certainly in favor of the interlock devices for extreme DUI and repeat offenders,” McComish said, but, “it penalizes the whole family.”

Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) has amended Senate Bill 1582 to eliminate interlocking devices for first-time 0.08 DUI offenders, but the bill needs approval in the Senate, where passage is questionable.

Meanwhile, the original Senate Bill 1029, requiring the devices, takes affect 90 days after the legislative session ends, which could be next week.

To track this legislation through the capital, visit www.azleg.gov.

Legislators back off interlock device for 1st-time offenders

Legislators back off interlock device required for all 1st-time offenders

Jessica Coomes
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 13, 2007 12:00 AM

Though not unprecedented, it’s highly unusual for the Legislature to try to make significant changes to a law during the same session it was approved by the House and Senate and signed by the governor.

Here’s how the debate unfolded Tuesday over a bill to replace Arizona’s new DUI law, considered one of the toughest in the country by requiring even first-time offenders to test their breath each time they start their car.

On one side, Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the Legislature acted prematurely in requiring the interlocks. He couldn’t find any evidence to support the claim that ignition-interlock devices prevent first-time offenders from repeating their crime.

On the other side, Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said the machines do work, and it doesn’t make sense to do nothing and just wait for the issue to be studied further.

Rep. David Schapira, D-Tempe, had proposed the interlock provision signed by Gov. Janet Napolitano. He stood behind his work Tuesday, opposing Kavanagh’s changes.

“We’ve taken some pretty significant steps to become one of the leaders in DUI legislation,” Schapira said. In fact, New Mexico was the only other state to require ignition-interlocks for a year for first-time offenders whose blood-alcohol content is at least 0.08 percent. The House gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a new bill that would get rid of the breath-testing requirement. Kavanagh tacked his changes onto another DUI-related bill, Senate Bill 1582. The measure’s sponsor, Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, said she would not support Kavanagh’s changes in the Senate, which means a conference committee will be appointed to work out differences.

Gray, who has been one of the Legislature’s advocates for tough DUI laws, said she may support a compromise between the law and Kavanagh’s proposal. For example, she would support cutting the interlock time to six months for first-time offenders with a blood-alcohol content between 0.08 and 0.10 percent.

However, Gray said she heard rumblings from the governor’s office that Napolitano would not agree to any weakening of the new interlock law. Jeanine L’Ecuyer, a spokeswoman for Napolitano, said the governor won’t comment on pending legislation because the bill could change before it reaches her desk.

Ericka Espino, state executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Arizona, said Kavanagh’s changes would be a “devastating blow,” but she is confident the bill will be improved in the conference committee.

“Knowing that we’ve got such great support out there, we’re happy about that. We’re very optimistic,” Espino said.

The original interlock measure [bill number?] overwhelmingly passed the House, 54-2, and the Senate, 26-2. Like most of his colleagues, Kavanagh supported the bill.

“We all thought we were doing the right thing,” Kavanagh said, but he changed his mind after he had time to review research on the topic. “We need to do something, but it has to be the right thing. The stakes are too high.”

Under Kavanagh’s changes, the only first-time, non-extreme offenders to be required to have an interlock installed for six months would be those drivers who also cause an accident in which someone gets hurt or property is damaged.

Another lawmaker who changed his mind on the issue, Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said he cast his original vote with the understanding that it would be softened in a conference committee. But a conference committee was never convened, and the bill was sent to the governor with the tough provision.

Other lawmakers offered their reasons for wanting to scale back the use of interlocks:

• They can’t be installed on motorcycles, which means people who drive only motorcycles have no way to get around, said Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Glendale.

• The cost for the devices, which must be paid by the offender, will hurt a family’s budget, said Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix.

• The punishment is unfair to women, who often are smaller than men and reach a high blood-alcohol concentration more quickly, said Rep. Olivia Cajero Bedford, D-Tucson. “With all due respect, you guys have more fat than I do,” Bedford said to some of her male colleagues on the House floor.

If Kavanagh’s measure fails, the law with the ignition interlock requirement will go into effect 90 days after this legislative session ends. Regardless of what happens, the current law requiring interlocks for repeat offenders and extreme drunken drivers will remain.