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Arizona House approves ignition locks for DUI offenders

Arizona House approves ignition locks for DUI offenders

Restaurant industry speaks out against bill

April 19, 2007 - 10:35PM

The question of whether convicted drunken drivers will have to install interlocks on their vehicles will depend on whether lawmakers believe the offenders are really criminals or if they have just made a mistake.

With only two dissenting votes, the House on Thursday approved legislation to require anyone found guilty of driving under the influence to drive only a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock for the next 12 months. The device prevents a vehicle from starting unless it records a clean breath sample.

But several supporters said they actually were voting for another provision of SB 1029 which provides for longer jail terms for those with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of at least 0.20, offenders already required to install ignition interlocks. They want a conference committee to strip out the added provision which mandates interlocks for any convicted drunken driver - someone with a BAC of at least 0.08.

"We need to look at the financial burden this may place on a first-time offender who is a working person trying to take care of a family,'' complained Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix.

And Rep. Pete Rios, D-Dudleyville, questioned whether such a blanket requirement is necessary. He said a good percentage of those who are arrested are so shamed they will never reoffend.

That parallels arguments presented by industry lobbyists like Don Isaacson of the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association, owners of bars and liquor stores. "If it's a first-time mistake, without other circumstances, it ought to be viewed as that."

But Glynn Birch, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was in Phoenix Thursday to push the legislation and she scoffed at that description.

He said studies show that those arrested for driving drunk are not really first-time offenders. It's only this is the first time they got caught.

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