Kentucky passes strong DUI legislation
The Kentucky General Assembly has passed S.B. 133 to significantly expand the use of ignition interlocks for convicted DUI offenders. The legislation requires first-time DUI offenders with high-BACs (.15>), those who refuse to provide a breath test, and offenders who drive with minors in the vehicle at the time of their arrest to install an interlock for a period of six months. Similar to legislation introduced by Representative Dennis Keene who has championed this effort for many years, this bill will greatly strengthen Kentucky’s existing interlock program. Responsibility.org has been pleased to join members of the traffic safety community and the Kentucky Distillers Association to provide broad support for this effort.
While we support the mandatory use of ignition interlocks for ALL convicted DUI offenders, we applaud Kentucky’s progress which is a significant step forward in addressing the behavior that accounted for 26% of all motor vehicle fatalities in the state in 2013. SB 133 will target those offenders who drive at high-BACs, a group that was involved in 18% of DUI fatalities (NHTSA, 2014).
Important provisions of SB 133 include:
- Tying the interlock requirement to treatment. A person is not eligible for the issuance of an interlock license unless they have enrolled in and are actively participating in an alcohol or substance abuse education or treatment program. This is an important provision as it ensures that offenders who do have alcohol, drug, and/or mental health issues will be screened/assessed and referred to an appropriate intervention while the interlock is installed. Offenders can address their issues and have the interlock act as a ‘safety net,’ guaranteeing that they cannot drink and drive. Few states have yet to create this type of linkage although many acknowledge the importance of treating DUI offenders while they participate in interlock programs.
- Creation of an ignition interlock certificate of installation. In order to be eligible to receive an interlock-restricted license, an offender must submit proof of device installation to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The certificate is given to the offender by a certified ignition interlock provider (technician at service center) once the device is installed in their vehicle. This provision allows the Transportation Cabinet to track which offenders have and have not complied with interlock orders.
- Financial hardship provisions. The courts have the authority to make a determination with respect to indigency. If an offender is deemed indigent, they will not be required to pay the full costs associated with the interlock. Instead, a payment plan will be negotiated with the interlock vendor based on the individual’s ability to pay (i.e., sliding fee scale). Approximately 20 other states have some form of indigency or unaffordability provisions in place.
- Day-for-day credit. If an offender waives their right to judicial review of their suspension, the court has the discretion to allow that individual to apply to the Transportation Cabinet for issuance of an interlock license. If the offender is eligible, they will be issued the interlock-restricted license for the remainder of the suspension period and apply the court-determined credit on a day-for-day basis for any subsequent interlock requirement arising from the same DUI incident. In other words, eligible offenders can opt into the interlock program in order to regain driving privileges and then count this as time served towards any mandatory participation they would face post-conviction. This provision incentivizes program participation and is an avenue to get offenders into the interlock program early, increasing the likelihood that they will not drive unlicensed.
The bill will now go to the Governor who is expected to sign the bill into law.