The New Jersey House and Senate have supported a bill that would make the ignition interlock system mandatory for all DWI offenses. This would be instead of the currently mandatory license suspension. However, if the defendant does not own a vehicle, then his license would be suspended. You would not be able to drive any car that doesn’t have the interlock installed on it.
This HAS NOT been signed and is not law, but it soon may be. I assume that MADD has convinced law makers that people will drive even if their license is suspended for DWI. The penalties for driving while suspended for DWI include mandatory jail time of up to ninety days and an additional year to two year loss of license. If an accident is involved or if there is a prior conviction for DWI on your record, you could be looking at an indictable conviction and many months in the county jail or state prison time. Apparently, the legislature feels that these penalties are not sufficient or alternatively and more likely, the law makers feel that this is a safer alternative to the current system since people can not operate the car unless they blow into the machine and no alcohol is detected. So, if people are going to drive anyway, we mind as well make it safer. I have not looked at the research numbers, so I’m not sure if there is data to support the conclusion that people drive regardless.
Currently, the ignition interlock is only mandatory for a first offense DWI if the BAC is .15 or above or the defendant is convicted of refusal to provide a breath sample. It is mandatory for second and third offenses no matter the BAC level. With the new law, the ignition interlock would be mandatory for the period of suspension and up to ten years after reinstatement, depending on the number of previous convictions an individual has on his record. Right now, the typical period of ignition interlock for a first offense is the period of suspension and up to one year after. For a second offense, the period of suspension and for up to three years following. I don’t think there will be any changes to the time frames.
Even if the new law passes, the additional penalties will remain the same. The high fines, ridiculously high surcharges and insurance surcharges, possible incarceration, loss of employment (imagine telling your boss that you have to install the interlock on all the work trucks or company cars that you might drive). It also will appear on your driver abstract forever.
Regardless, this new law would likely give the DWI defendant an opportunity to keep driving. For most, this is the paramount consideration.