A strict new law requiring first-time DUI offenders to have to pass a breathalyzer test to start their cars cleared a legislative hurdle Wednesday.
Drivers who get a first conviction of driving under the influence would have to blow into a machine before their car would start. The so-called interlock measures a driverâ€™s breath-alcohol content.
The sponsor is Representative Henry Fincher, a Cookeville Democrat. Under his bill, offenders would have to use the device and pay for it, an estimated $40 a month or more.
â€śThis is the toughest interlock bill thatâ€™s before the legislature this year. Itâ€™ll apply to anyone â€¦convicted of driving drunk, or having a .08 blood alcohol content or higher, or to people who refuse to take the test.â€ť
Fincherâ€™s bill cracks down on first time offenders, because, he says, in the court system almost nobody pleads guilty to second or third-offense DUI. This bill is a model favored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
The bill, HB 2917 Fincher/SB 2897 McNally, is here.
It is expected to go to the House Judiciary Committee as early as next week.
Fincher says the bill is strict by design.
“If itâ€™s the first time, youâ€™ll have to have the interlock for a year. There will be significant fees associated with that. If youâ€™re caught driving without an interlock device when youâ€™re required to have one, youâ€™re going to spend a little time in jail, and youâ€™re going to have a $2500 fine.”
Fincher is a Cookeville attorney who now specializes in law dealing with old people. But he worked for years in the criminal courts.
“I am a former criminal defense attorney. I have seen our court system in action. Itâ€™s very rare for anyone to plead to a second or third offense DUI. They will plead to first offense, they may serve significant jail time, but they know that the penalties are less. So, by having interlocks [only] available for second and third offense, itâ€™s really the same â€¦really, as a practical matter, not even having interlocks available.”