Ohio Proposes Adding More Restrictions to First-Time DUI Offenders

By: Joslyn Law Firm
 
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Oct. 13, 2014 - PRLog -- The Ohio Legislature is considering a new bill that would require first-time drunk driving offenders to install an ignition interlock system in their vehicles. Some attorneys and legal organizations are skeptical about the law, saying it could limit judicial discretion in sentencing.

The Ohio Legislature has delayed a vote on a proposed bill that would require all first-time drunk driving offenders to install an ignition interlock system in their vehicles. The proposed bill could restrict judicial discretion in sentencing, said Columbus DUI attorney Brian Joslyn.

House Bill 469, also known as Annie's Law, was expected to be voted out of judiciary committee and sent to the full House last month. Instead, local attorneys, judges and legal organizations opposed portions of the measure, pushing back the vote.

"The proposed bill is attempting to make the state safer by decreasing the number of drunk driving offenses, but I don't know if this measure, as it is now, is the answer," Joslyn said. "Not every case is the same, and the bill could limit the options judges have when sentencing offenders."

If the bill is passed, it would require all first-time alcohol-related OVI offenders to use an ignition interlock device on their vehicles for at least six months rather than have court-ordered limited driving privileges, according to House Bill 469.

An ignition interlock device is a system used to prevent people who have consumed too much alcohol from getting behind the wheel, Joslyn said. The device requires a person to exhale into it to test the breath for alcohol content. If the content is above limit programmed into the device, it prevents the vehicle from being started.

A driver must register a blood-alcohol content of less than .025 to turn on the ignition. The amount is less than half the .08 limit at which one is considered too intoxicated to drive, the DUI attorney said.

One of the issues with the bill, Joslyn said, is it creates specific requirements for judges when sentencing cases. Currently, judges have the discretion to require the devices for first-time DUI offenders (http://www.duidefenseohio.com/charges/first-offense/). However, they are only mandatory for people who have a second offense within six years.

This bill could mean people with other OVI-related offenses could receive the same punishment as someone who has received two DUIs in a two-year period, Joslyn said. For example, if a person with a DUI pleads to a reduced charge, he or she still could be required to have the device.

"A judge's role is to impose an appropriate punishment for an offender for his or her crime. They have experience and knowledge of the law and in sentencing offenders," Joslyn said. "They should be trusted to exercise their own moral judgment when imposing a sentence."

Offenders who are required to have the devices installed in their vehicles are required to pay the cost of installation, maintenance and removal, Joslyn said. The offender would have to pay roughly $80 a month to cover the costs of calibrating the machine, he said. The requirement could become expensive, he said, and could cost the state’s indigent defense fund for low-income defendants.

"I understand the need for safer roadways, but judges currently have the option to implement this. They could use their discretion and require it for offenders they feel it may benefit," Joslyn said. "Having the requirement could become costly."

The bill is named for attorney Annie Rooney who was killed in a drunk driving accident in 2013. The woman responsible for her death was sentenced to the maximum eight years in prison. She had a previous impaired driving charge that was pleaded down to physical control.

Brian Joslyn is a Columbus DUI defense lawyer (http://www.duidefenseohio.com/) who represents people charged with drunk driving, including first offenses or any subsequent offense.

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