In 2010, the California legislature launched a pilot program (Vehicle Code 23700 VC) under which everyone convicted of California DUI in one of four counties would be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their car for a certain period of time. Now the question is whether California will extend that requirement to the entire state.
(UPDATE 2019: The pilot program has been extended to the whole state: Most California drivers can continue driving without limitation following a DUI conviction if they get an ignition interlock device (IID) in their car. California Senate Bill 1046 (2019).)
The four counties to which the mandatory IID pilot program applies are Los Angeles, Alameda, Tulare and Sacramento. The required period of IID installation ranges from five (5) months for a first-time Vehicle Code 23152 VC DUI conviction, to four (4) years for people convicted of Vehicle Code 23153 DUI causing injury with three (3) or more prior DUIs on their record.
The law that set forth this pilot program was initially set to expire on January 1, 2016. The idea was that, at that time, the legislature would evaluate the program to see if it had reduced the rate of repeat DUI arrests in the counties to which it applied. But legislators voted to extend the program for another 18 months–until July 1, 2017.
Several months ago, the California Senate passed Senate Bill 1046 (SB 1046)–which would make the mandatory four-county ignition interlock device pilot program the law statewide. The Assembly is currently considering the bill.
If SB 1046 passes the Assembly, then California will join 27 other states that have similar mandatory IID laws in place. Everyone convicted of DUI–even first offenders with low BACs–would be required to have an IID installed in their car as a condition of restoring their driving privileges (or obtaining a restricted license).
This is an expensive and burdensome requirement–and comes on top of existing DUI penalties such as driver’s license suspension. Also, California judges currently have the discretion to impose an IID requirement on DUI defenders if they choose–and are especially likely to require IIDs for repeat offenders or defendants whose BAC was especially high (0.15% or above).
In our opinion, the current law on IIDs is more rational, since it allows judges to make reasonable distinctions between more and less serious DUIs–and thus avoid punishing low-level offenders more harshly. But, like it or not, mandatory IIDs for all DUI offenders may be the path our state will take.
That said, there is an upside to SB 1046. Current law requires DUI offenders to complete a period of driver’s license suspension before they are eligible to receive a restricted license allowing them to drive to/from work, school, etc. But under SB 1046, defendants who install an IID would be able to go straight to a restricted license without first completing a period of license suspension.