Friday, December 28, 2007

new law makes california dui lawyers MADD

MADD is urging California lawmakers to implement a law that would require an ignition-locking device be placed in the vehicles of first-time DUI offenders.

On March 16, 1990, Judy Utter's life was shattered. Her 18-year-old daughter Jennifer was killed in a drunk driving crash in Carmichael.

"It was devastating," said Utter. "Jennifer was a very smart girl, ready to go to college. She wanted to be a teacher."

But there was no college for Jennifer. No wedding. No children. "None of the things you plan for," said her mother.

Today, Judy Utter works as a victims' advocate with MADD. "I know she (Jennifer) would have wanted me to work to prevent another family from going through this," Utter said.

Utter and MADD are lobbying to get California lawmakers to implement a law that would require alcohol ignition interlocks on the vehicles of first-time DUI offenders.

"It's a safety factor and it will save lives," said Utter.

Interlock devices prevent a vehicle's ignition from working if alcohol is detected. A person breaths into a handheld device. That breath is passed over an electrical chip and when there is alcohol in the breath, the ignition system won't work.

MADD Chief Executive Officer Charles Hurley said first time offenders should be treated harshly. "First offenders aren't really first offenders," said Hurley. "It's first time caught. The science indicates that people that have been arrested on a first offense have driven drunk 87 times before."

New Mexico, Arizona, Illinois, and Louisiana all have ignition interlock laws on the books for first time DUI offenders.

"This isn't Big Brother. This is a safety factor," said Utter. "Why can't we use our tools and technology in a safe way to prevent death and destruction?"

Utter said she'd like to see ignition interlock devices installed on every car, regardless of the driver's criminal record. "To me, it's a safety factor," Utter said. "We got used to wearing seatbelts. We are now accustomed to airbags. This is a safety issue."

MADD does not currently have any California lawmakers lined up to sponsor ignition interlock legislation. "We're working on it," said Hurley. "We think we could see strong bipartisan support."

Hurley said 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to get behind the wheel because "they can." He said the ignition interlock devices would "stop that revolving door.