New DUII law requires first-time offenders to install ignition interlock devices

By Lisa Donato | Editor-in-Chief

A new Oregon House bill has significantly changed the way in which the state deals with persons arrested for the first time for Driving Under the Influence of Intoxication (DUII). As of Jan. 1, 2012, HB 3075 requires anyone arrested for a DUII to install an ignition interlock device (IID) before becoming eligible to have his or her driver’s license restored.

An IID is a computerized breath analyzer that connects to a vehicle’s ignition system, requiring the driver to provide a breath sample prior to starting the engine. According to Coos Bay Police Officer Steve Myers, who attended the 2012 DUII Multi-Disciplinary Conference in Canyonville, Ore. last month, if the alcohol content in a driver’s breath sample exceeds a preset limit of .02 percent, the vehicle will not start.

“It’s just getting tougher on driving while intoxicated,” Myers said.

Before HB 3075 took effect, one arrested for a DUII charge could be convicted and required to install an IID or instead choose to apply for a diversion program, which, if completed, dismisses the DUII without a conviction.  According to Myers, about 11,000 people in Oregon were arrested for drunk driving in 2011, 3,200 of which were convicted and required to have IIDs installed in order to have their driver’s licenses restored. The remainder chose to go through diversion programs. This is no longer the case.

“Now, if someone is convicted of a DUII, they are required to have an IID installed in their car, whether or not they choose to take a diversion program,” Myers said.

Drivers convicted of DUII who are required to install IIDs in their vehicles must pay for the installation, lease, monthly monitoring, and removal themselves, rather than the money coming from taxpayers. First-time offenders are required to have an IID installed in their vehicle for approximately one year after the ending date of the suspension or revocation caused by the conviction, and the amount of time increases by one year for repeated convictions. According to Myers, installation is usually between $50-$200 per vehicle.

“Some may qualify for a waiver in fee, but typically the person convicted of a DUII is responsible for paying for it,” Myers said.

Farwest Tire and Bayshore Auto Repair are two local businesses that install IIDs. Farwest Tire orders their IIDs from Intoxalock, and Bayshore Auto Repair obtains theirs from Smart Start. Bayshore Auto Repair currently has 27 monthly IID clients, and combined with Farwest Tire, they have installed more than 10 IIDs so far this year.

“We installed 14 last year and four so far this year. It usually peaks around the holidays,” Farwest Tire Manager Danny Eversole said.

Although many often attribute the large amount of drunk driving arrests to irresponsible teenagers, Myers stated that high school students are not the main DUII offenders.

“Conservatively, I’d say there’s probably been about 100 DUIIs in Coos Bay so far this year,” Myers said. “We see a lot of DUII arrests, but not a lot with high school students, though that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.”

According to Myers, tampering with an IID, unlawfully soliciting someone else to blow into an IID to start a vehicle, and failure to install an IID are all Class A infractions, punishable by a maximum fine of $433. Those who unlawfully assist one convicted of a DUII in starting their vehicle by blowing into their IID for them will also be charged with a Class A infraction. In order to keep this from occurring, there is a secondary safety feature of IIDs that requests breath samples of the driver at random while they are on the road. If the driver does not provide another sample within a certain amount of time, the vehicle’s engine will turn off and lock.

Myers stated that in addition to IIDs keeping those convicted of DUIIs from continuing to drive while intoxicated, they also serve as a deterrent for future offenses, due to the hassle and embarrassment of being seen driving with one. He predicts these factors will contribute to the decrease in amount of DUIIs over time.

“When used properly, IIDs can definitely cut down on the number of DUIIs,” Myers said.