First-Time Drunken Drivers to Get Ignition Locks

License Suspensions Reduced in Exchange for Mandatory Ignition Interlock Devices

Anyone convicted of drunken driving will now have to install an ignition interlock device in his or her car, blow into it and pass a breathalyzer for the car to start. The new law took effect on Jan. 1 and affects even first-time offenders.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving worked to pass the new law, which reduces the length of license suspensions.

Previous laws mandated a 1-year license suspension for those convicted of DUI while the new law reduces that suspension to 45 days, plus 1 year with an ignition interlock device.

People with a second DUI conviction will still serve the 45-day suspension, but they're required to have the ignition device in their car for three years.

Johanna Krebs, of the Connecticut chapter of M.A.D.D., said the device is one of the easiest ways to ensure repeat drunken drivers stay off the roads when under the influence.

"We can assure they're participating in the programs they need to, they're continuing going to work," Krebs said. "Doing the things they have to do and want to do, but without being under the influence."

Under secretary of criminal justice policy Mike Lawlor said the change has worked well in other states.

"What we do know is the states that have done this have experienced a significant drop in their DUI fatalities," he said.

The new law applies only to first convictions.

Many first-time offenders are able to get the charges against them dismissed after completing an alcohol education course and a mandatory license suspension.

"That will not change," Lawlor said, "what will change are the lengthy suspensions."

The devices cost those convicted about $100 per month. That cost is not passed on to the state. The offender must pay for it.

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