With two states passing all-offender ignition interlock laws this year, two-thirds now require interlocks for all drunk driving offenders. New Jersey and Kentucky are states number 33 and 34 in the campaign to require IIDs for all drunk driving offenders.
So far this year, 13 states have passed legislation to improve their interlock law, and a few states are still in session, which means we could see new legislation pass yet this year.
New Jersey had been trying to pass an all-offender law in the state for many years. In 2016, the legislature delivered such a bill to Governor Chris Christie’s desk, yet, in a move that never has happened before or since, he vetoed that bill. It took the election of a new governor to finally get it done.
Kentucky’s history on the all-offender effort is much shorter, as the state enacted its first interlock law only five years ago. In 2019, a large group of stakeholders, including Kentucky’s famous whiskey distillers, came together to draft and pass an all-offender bill that will save many lives and make Kentucky’s roads safer for everyone.
Texas, which enacted its all-offender law in 2015, strengthened its law even further by passing a deferred adjudication bill. Under this latest law, first-time offenders who enter the deferred adjudication program and successfully complete their interlock period will be able to avoid a conviction for their first offense. If the person is arrested for a second offense, however, the suspension will still count, and they will be treated as a repeat offender.
This program is a big win for everyone. If a person truly mends their ways and proves it by completing the interlock program without a violation, they will not have a criminal conviction on their record. This law is expected to greatly increase the interlock program numbers for those people looking for a second chance.
Unfortunately, not all news was good during this year’s legislative season. Massachusetts, in spite of six bills that contained all-offender ignition interlock language in them — including Governor Baker’s Traffic Safety Initiative, failed to send a bill to the governor’s desk. This marks 10 straight years that lawmakers have refused to correct the nation’s weakest interlock law.
Another disappointing outcome was that Washington did not pass what some experts consider to be the missing piece in one of the strongest, if not the strongest, interlock laws in the country.
Washington has a relatively short look-back period of five years, and the legislature was about to change it 10 years when an unfortunate situation doomed the effort. The bill hit the Senate floor just after Washington had passed its state budget, and lengthening the look-back period had fiscal impact. Because the budget had already been passed, there was no way to increase funding for the Department of Corrections to cover this change in the existing budget and the House refused to move it.
The good news is funding was the only issue, as the bill overwhelming passed in both committee hearings and on the floor of the Senate, and it should be fast-tracked for passage in 2020.
Stay tuned for futher changes as the six states that have year-round legislatures continue their grind toward December.