Ignition Interlock: Will It Apply to First Time DUIs?

Yesterday Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) introduced a bill requiring all states to use ignition interlock devices for first-time DUI offenders. Dubbed “Alisa’s Law” this bill, if it becomes law, would require the installation of interlock devices on the cars of people convicted of even a first-time DUI. Currently in Florida, only repeat DUI offenders, with a blood alcohol level above 0.15, or with a minor in the car are required to have the ignition interlock device.

But isn’t this a state law issue and not a federal one?

Yes and no. The federal government can’t really enact a law saying all people convicted of a DUI must have the ignition interlock device installed. However, it can withhold highway funding from each state that doesn’t enact certain laws, which under this bill would be requiring use of the ignition interlock device. So enacting the actual law would be up to each state, and states that don’t do so would not get the same amount of highway funding. Coincidentally this is the same way the federal government got all states to raise the minimum drinking age to 21.

What does this mean for Florida?

If the federal government enacts this new law, states will have until October 1st of this year to comply. The Florida legislature is the legal body that creates and passes new legislation, which must then be signed by the governor to become law. However the Florida legislature only meets during the early spring of each year. That means the Florida legislature would have to call a special session, convene, create, and pass new legislation, and the governor would have to sign it into law, all by October 1st.

Remix to ignition (interlock):

Even if Congress passes this new law, Florida must also pass a law requiring the ignition interlock device as a condition of first-time DUI convictions. It’s unlikely that Florida will, especially in an election year, convene a special session prior to October 1st. Instead it is much more likely that this will be addressed in the 2015 session.