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Lawmakers Propose Ignition Devices for DUI Offenders

By Nannette Miranda

Feb. 14 - KGO - Conservatives and liberals may be at odds over many issues, but apparently drunk driving is not one of them. There's a new effort in Sacramento to crack down on first time DUI offenders.

California's rise in alcohol-involved traffic fatalities is bringing political opposites together. State DMV records show those crashes up nearly eight percent in 2005.

A San Francisco liberal and an Orange County conservative have teamed up to save lives. They're proposing mandatory ignition interlocking devices in the vehicles of first time DUI offenders. The devices are essentially breathalyzers that would remain for on year.

St. Sen. Carole Migden, (D) San Francisco: "We don't believe that anybody who's been convicted ought to have the privilege or the right to return to driving unless they're indeed sober."

A representative of the makers of the ignition lock demonstrated how one would be installed, prohibiting the car from starting if the driver's breath had any alcohol in it. The technology has vastly improved in the last year, testing the driver after five minutes on the road, then every thirty minutes after that.

Assm. Todd Spitzer, (R) Orange: "We have the ability to put a police officer in the front seat of every single car in California."

Criminal defense attorneys say the mandatory breathalyzer is too harsh for first time offenders and point out current penalties aren't even working.

Larry Pilgrim, Criminal Defense Attorney: "You could impose the death penalty and people would still re-offend. A couple of thousand in fines. Four to nine month class. mandatory jail time. Increased insurance rates. Six months drivers' license suspension. Enough is enough!"

But New Mexico saw its alcohol-related fatalities drop 11 percent in just one year when it implemented the same restriction.

Judy Utter's daughter was killed while riding with a drunk driver. She believes the threat of an ignition breathalyzer lock may have given that driver second thoughts.

Judy Utter, Mother of DUI Victim: "I have to believe that they would have known better and been smarter."

Article courtesy of

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