Ala. ignition interlock law on hold - WRBL

Ala. ignition interlock law on hold

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LEE COUNTY, Ala. -

More than a year after an Alabama law was passed to prevent convicted DUI offenders from driving drunk, it still has not been implemented fully because there are some financial concerns with the law.

In 2011, Alabama became the last state to pass an interlock law. It is designed to keep certain DUI offenders from driving under the influence again. The device is installed in the offender's car for a minimum of two years and every time before they turn on the car they have to blow into a breathalyzer. If their blood alcohol content is .02 percent or higher the car won't start. There are also random breathalyzer checks.

Lee County District Court Judge Russell Bush believes this will lower the number of repeat offenders because of the inconvenience and money involved in the process. "It's a big ordeal for the offender. They have to take their car into a shop and have this device installed, they have to go in and have it serviced every 30 days. There are fees involved and all of the fees are passed on to the offender," Judge Bush said.

The person has to pay the circuit clerk's office $75per month for the first four months the device is installed. That's where the problem comes in. "Circuit clerks all over state were not told in the passage of the law or in the details in the law how to receipt and disperse those proceeds...The clerk's offices are mainly just a clearinghouse for money to come in and be sent back to where it's supposed to go, so that was a big problem," said Judge Bush.

Four departments are supposed to receive the money. Forty percent is supposed to go to the Alabama Interlock Indigent Fund, to help those who cannot afford the device. Twenty-five percent is supposed to go to the court of jurisdiction, 20 percent to the Department of Public Safety and 15 percent to the district attorney of jurisdiction.

But a spokesperson with the Alabama Office of Courts said exact accounts, which can detail how the funds can be used, are not identified in the state law. Until legislators fix it they are recommending judges not use the program.

Ultimately it's up to each one though. Judge Bush has already ordered a handful of people have the ignition devices installed in hopes the law is fixed in time. "We haven't had a lot of devices installed simply because the time hasn't passed and it's not time yet for them to be installed." It can take at least three months before the devices are required to be installed.

State lawmakers created an Alabama DUI Prevention and Ignition Interlock Council, who are tasked with examining the issue. They are set to meet in Oct.

Lawmakers hope to amend the statute in the upcoming legislative session.

Sydney Cameron

Sydney joined the WRBL news team in December 2011 after working as a freelance reporter in Washington, D.C. More>>

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