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New law will put ignition interlock on first time offenders' cars

Drunk driving laws in California are about to get tougher. A bill that will become a law on the first day of 2019 will require all first-time DUI offenders to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles, or face driving restrictions.

The bill, SB 1046, will take effect as law on Jan. 1, 2019 and expire on Jan. 1, 2026 unless further action is taken to extend it. Under the law, any driver convicted of DUI for the first time will be given the option of having an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle. The device uses a breath test for blood alcohol content when a driver enters the vehicle, and does not allow the vehicle to be started unless the driver passes the test. The device will have to be paid for out of the DUI offender's own pocket. The cost ranges from $70 to $150 for installation and up to $80 per month for monitoring. Rates would be reduced for those with low income.

A first time offender who did not cause injuries while driving under the influence could refuse to have the device installed and instead accept restricted driving privileges. For first-time DUI offenders who caused injuries while driving under the influence as well as repeat DUI offenders, ignition interlock will be mandatory.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Jerry Hill and has the full support of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. MADD expects the law to prevent drunk driving and save lives by prohibiting impaired would-be drivers from even starting their cars.

Under current law, a first-time DUI offender in California faces driver's license suspension, fines and possible jail time. When SB 1046 becomes the law, the options will get narrower. Having legal counsel to contest the charges at the outset might be advisable.

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