In the aftermath of a 6-year-old girl’s death in an accident with a man who was later charged with DUI, lawmakers in South Carolina are considering legislation that will require the installation of ignition interlock devices on cars owned by anyone convicted of DUI with a blood-alcohol content higher than .12 percent. The bill has already been approved by the South Carolina Senate and will soon be discussed by the House subcommittee. According to some law enforcement officers, the measure may be necessary because drivers whose licenses have been revoked are continuing to operate their vehicles without legal authorization.
If the measure is passed, South Carolina will become the 20th state to require ignition interlock devices after the first DUI offense. Currently, South Carolina only requires it upon the second offense. Ignition interlock devices function essentially as rudimentary breath alcohol tests that obligate drivers to blow into them before they are able to operate their vehicle. If the machine reads the driver’s breath to be higher than the preset limit, the car will refuse to start. Despite the increased restrictions proposed by the measure, some legislators have speculated that owners of multiple vehicles may be able to get around the law by only installing the device on one vehicle.
Ignition interlock devices may be characteristic of a certain gray area in constitutional law wherein state intrusions of the privacy and personal property of a citizen – in this case, his or her automobile – are justified by the need to protect a valid societal interest. However, breath alcohol testing devices utilized by law enforcement personnel in the field are subject to some amount of scrutiny on the basis of their inaccuracy in certain conditions. Such being the case, ignition interlock devices that utilize a similar mechanism could potentially prevent a driver from operating his or her vehicle even when they are entirely sober.
Given these complexities, it is all the more important to strive to protect oneself from a DUI conviction before it happens. In addition to possibly being forced to use an interlock device, someone convicted of DUI may face inhibited employment prospects and other adverse circumstances in the future.