As the reader of this article may be generally aware, Senate Bill 1046 offers a solution to the often job-destroying consequences of DMV hearing for a DUI. While the bill authored by State Senator Jerry Hill (Democrat representing San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties) was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September 2016, its provisions do not take effect until January 1, 2019.
Under Senate Bill 1046, installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) in one’s automobile will be mandatory for anyone in California convicted of even a first-time DUI. Currently, until January 1, 2019, installation of an IID is only required for everyone in California in a second or third DUI unless one lives in the four counties subject to a pilot program for increased IID use in even first-time DUI cases These counties are Los Angeles County, Alameda County, Sacramento County and Tulare County. Senate Bill 1046 broadens the IID installation requirement to all those convicted of DUI in California, even for a first-time DUI.
The intent behind the law seems to be to prevent anyone convicted of even a first-time DUI from committing a second DUI, and those convicted of second DUI’s from committing a third DUI, etc. The supporters of the bill believe that installation of a device that prevents turning on one’s car to drive (ignition) unless one provides an alcohol-free breath sample will prevent someone already convicted of DUI from committing DUI again and therefore improve public safety. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) certainly believes this is so and was an ardent supporter of 1046.
According to some statistics, one thousand people per year die in California from a drunk driver and over 20,000 are injured by a drunk driver in California.
While 1046 makes it mandatory for everyone in California convicted of DUI to install an ignition interlock device, it also provides a way for at least a first-time DUI to avoid the 30-day “hard suspension” of one’s driving privileges that often leads to losing one’s job. During the “hard suspension” period, a person is ineligible for even a restricted license to drive to and from work. Consequently, the person must take public transportation, Uber, Lyft, a taxi, ride a bike, walk or just not show up for work.
This can be extremely expensive, especially for someone who drives considerable distances, i.e. a salesman who must drive to visit customers in various locations. If a person cannot afford Uber every day for 30 days, a taxi or find an alternative way to work, the person cannot get to work (unless the person simply drives anyways on a suspended license, itself a misdemeanor punishable by a minimum jail sentence of ten days in county jail).
Under SB 1046, if a first-time offender involved in a non-injury DUI installs an ignition interlock device after the arrest, but before being convicted, that driver can avoid the 30-day hard suspension that normally is the most painful consequence of a lost DMV hearing for DUI.
The person would have to install an IID for six months, but he or she can then continue driving legally and presumably maintain one’s job.
We think this is a good improvement in the law and a helpful way to prevent the collateral consequences of a DUI, although it certainly is not perfect. For example, a person who is arrested for a first-time DUI, but who only had one small drink (really!) and opted for a blood test would have to spend the money to install an ignition interlock device only to later find that his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.04% and no criminal case is filed and the DMV takes no action on suspending the person’s license. The same problem would exist for someone stopped illegally by police who ultimately succeeds in having evidence of his BAC suppressed and the case dismissed in court and at the DMV.
Installation of an ignition interlock device costs between $75 to $125 to install the device and then about $4 per day ($30 per week). It then must be recalibrated every sixty days, which costs another $100. SB 1046 does contain provisions for financial assistance for low-income DUI drivers, permitting such drivers to pay as low as 10% of such costs, with the IID provider paying the remainder (and presumably being reimbursed by the state government later).
There are no similar provisions for a first-time offender who is arrested for DUI involved in an injury-related accident, a second-time offender or a third-time offender.