New DUI ignition interlock law flawed

Published: Jan. 10, 2011 at 8:35 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2011 at 12:03 AM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
Paul Cunney
Paul Cunney
Jennifer Dotson
Jennifer Dotson

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – A flaw in Hawaii's new ignition interlock law prevents second and third time DUI offenders from being able to get the device installed in their vehicles as the law intended.

"The second offender is not going to be able to qualify for the ignition interlock, and that was the whole purpose behind it," defense attorney Paul Cunney told Hawaii News Now.

Cunney says drivers with multiple DUIs are often the most dangerous drunks on the road. They know they're breaking the law, know they are a hazard, yet despite having been arrested before they continue to drink and drive. If interlock devices are put in anyone's car, Cunney believes they should go to the repeat offenders. But as the law is written, they cannot.

"The second offender, does not qualify for the ignition interlock because he has to surrender his license plates and his registration, therefore he's got no car," Cunney explained.

We checked the law, and it is true. Anyone arrested for more than one DUI in a five year period must give up their registration.

It is illegal to drive without a valid registration, and without a registration what good is an interlock device?

"That is the flaw in the law and they're trying to correct it," Cunney said.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving applauds the intent behind the interlock law.

"We simply don't want people to drink and drive, and that's all there is to it. If they can't make a decision by themselves, this device will make it for them," said Jennifer Dotson, Executive Director of MADD in Hawaii.

State representative Sharon Har was hit head-on by a drunk driver. Her car was totaled, but she survived and introduced the ignition lock law.

Har acknowledges the flaw in the law and plans to correct it when the legislature convenes on January 19.

"It's an old practice of removing license plates from vehicles that no longer will happen," said Dotson, who works with Har as a member of the state's Ignition Interlock Task Force.

Har told Hawaii News Now it is possible the change could be fast tracked and the law amended by late March or early April, but she does not have much sympathy for repeat offenders, and said the change may not happen until May.

The state's Administrative Driver's License Revocation Office sent letters to between 50 and 75 people Monday who have been arrested for drunk driving since the state's new law took effect January 1st. The letters outline how those people can participate in the ignition interlock program. Some of those letters went to repeat offenders, but the state could not tell us how many of the people who got letters had previous DUI arrests.

Anyone arrested for a first DUI offense can either have an interlock device installed in their car for a year, or lose their license for a year.

A second offense results in revocation of 18 months or (when the law is fixed) use of an interlock device for 18 months. A third offense results in a license revocation for two years or (when the law is fixed) use of an interlock device for two years.

Twelve private companies state-wide have been licensed to install the interlock devices. There are five installation locations on Oahu, three on the Big Island, and one each on Molokai, Kauai, Maui, and Molokai.

It costs $84 to have the device installed and $89 a month to use. Installation and use (rent) of an interlock device for one year costs $1,152 before taxes.

Copyright 2010 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.