Fuschillo, Rice & Anti-dwi Advocates Propose New Ignition Interlock Law

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.

May 16, 2008

Photo caption: Senator Fuschillo explains how an ignition interlock system prevents an intoxicated person from driving their car. Senator Fuschillo, along with Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice (second left), MADD Long Island President Denna Cohen (right), DEDICATEDD President Marge Lee (not pictured), and Maureen McCormick, Chief of the Vehicular Crimes Bureau for the Nassau County District Attorney's Office, today called for a law mandating probation and ignition interlocks for all convicted DWI offenders in Nassau, Suffolk, and five other counties.

Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (8th District), Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice and Long Island anti-DWI advocates today called for mandatory probation and the installation of ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers in Nassau, Suffolk and five other New York counties. <?xml:namespace prefix = o />

Under state Senate legislation (S. 8036) sponsored by Senator Fuschillo, all those convicted of DWI, including first time offenders, would be placed on mandatory probation and have to install, at their own cost, an ignition interlock device in all vehicles that they use.

Senator Fuschillo said, “Even though New York State has enacted a number of significant laws to combat drunk driving, people are still dying on our roadways and DWI is still the most tolerated crime in our nation. We need a new tool in our arsenal to eradicate drunk driving. Interlock systems have been proven extremely effective in ensuring that drunk drivers, including first time offenders, never drink and drive again.”

District Attorney Rice said, "Ignition Interlock gives us one more tool to ensure that first-time offenders don't become repeat offenders. This bill is yet another piece of common sense legislation that will save lives and help law enforcement keep families safe on New York State roads. We need this bill passed."

Ignition interlocks are devices installed in vehicles that measure alcohol in the breath and immobilize the car if levels exceed set limits. A similar law enacted in the State of New Mexico in 2005 has led to a more than 60 percent drop in the recidivism rate among drunk drivers.

Senator Fuschillo and D.A. Rice were joined by Denna Cohen, President of the Long Island Chapter of Mothers Against Driving (M.A.D.D.) and Marge Lee, President of DEDICATEDD, a Long Island based anti-DUI organization.

Ms. Cohen said, “MADD believes that anyone who violates the public trust by driving at or above .08 deserves to have an alcohol ignition interlock installed on their vehicle. Ignition interlocks put the brakes on drunk driving. Five states have passed ignition interlock legislation for all convicted drunk drivers. When drunk drivers blow an illegal blood alcohol level during roadside police stops, they deserve to blow into an alcohol ignition interlock in their own cars. People drive drunk because they can and because we let them. Ignition interlocks stop this. Interlocks installed in the vehicles of convicted drunk drivers prevent the vehicle from starting if the driver fails a breath test. MADD is committed through its Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving to vastly increase the number of drivers mandated to install an ignition interlock on their vehicle by encouraging states to enact model laws that require alcohol ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers. One of the best proven ways to stop convicted drunk drivers from continuing to drive drunk is through alcohol interlocks. Interlock laws need to be mandatory; usage is very low when they are not mandated either judicially or administratively.”

Ms. Lee said, “As a victim I must live each day with ‘what is’ but I have always wondered ‘what if?’ What if we could stop drunken drivers from killing and maiming? ‘What if’ is finally a reality. It is a fact that drunk driving kills. Installation of an ignition interlock device will disable the weapon and save lives. DEDICATEDD extends a resounding thank you to Senator Fuschillo and Assemblyman Weisenberg for sponsoring this proactive legislation.”

The proposed law authorizes the creation of a pilot program in seven New York counties, including, Nassau, Suffolk, Albany, Erie, Onondaga, Monroe and Westchester. The bill does not prevent other counties not specifically designated from implementing their own program. Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg sponsors the legislation in the Assembly.

Under the legislation, all those convicted of DWI, including first-time offenders, must be placed on mandatory probation and are required to have an ignition interlock device installed, at their own cost, in all vehicles that they use, including those owned, leased, rented or loaned.

Periods of probation will include a minimum of one year with ignition interlock for first offenses, a minimum of five years probation with interlock for second offenses and life probation and interlock for third offenses. The sentencing court will require proof of compliance by the person required to install an ignition interlock device.

New York’s ignition interlock program was established 20 years ago in seven counties (Albany, Erie, Nassau, Onondaga, Monroe, Westchester and Suffolk) throughout New York State, and allowed judges to require certain people convicted of driving while intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance to use a chemical testing interlocking device which prohibits them from using their vehicle if the device registers the presence of alcohol or a controlled substance.

In 2007, Senator Fuschillo sponsored a new state law requiring all those convicted of aggravated DWI to be placed on probation and subjected to an ignition interlock device, and gave judges throughout the state the discretion to subject other offenders to such devices. The legislation pushed by Senator Fuschillo, D.A. Rice and anti-DWI advocates would further strengthen state law to require both probation and an interlock device for all drunk driving convictions.