Punishment for first-time drunken driving offenders in Connecticut became even more stringent this summer.
As of July 1, Connecticut now requires all residents who have been convicted of drunk driving to install a breathalyzer device on the ignition of their vehicles, the Fairfield Daily Voice reported. Additionally, first-time DUI offenders will face a 45-day license suspension.
Connecticut State Police explained that the breathalyzer, known as an ignition interlock device (IID), requires the driver to blow a sample of their breath into a tube in order for the car to start. If the driver’s blood alcohol content is over the legal limit, the IID will prevent the car from starting.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the law in June, extending the IID requirement to all DUI offenders, even those who agree to attend alcohol education programs and those who fail or refuse to take a chemical sobriety test. First-time DUI offenders would have to use the device for six months, the Insurance Journal reported. Offenders must also front the cost of installing the ignition interlock device, which can be as much as $1,000.
This law makes Connecticut the 25th state to adopt such a requirement for first-time offenders. Previously, Connecticut simply served DUI offenders with lengthy license suspensions, ranging anywhere from nine months to three years.
Some have criticized the law, saying it’s too harsh on first-time DUI offenders. However, more than 1.4 million Americans are arrested annually on first-time DUI charges — and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has found that the average drunken driver will have driven drunk an average of 80 times before his or her first arrest.
“When someone says it’s their first time driving drunk, that’s not true,” Skip Church, the policy liaison for MADD, said. “It’s just the first time they’ve been arrested.”
Given the prevalence of drunk driving, requiring ignition interlock devices is a necessary step in preventing drunk driving deaths in Connecticut, said MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church.
“This closes a loophole that allowed some offenders to avoid an ignition interlock,” Sheehey-Church said in a statement. “This law will now fulfill the commitment to Connecticut residents that the Legislature made back in 2011.”