Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ohio's ignition-breathalyzer bill fails

An Ohio bill that would have required first time DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles has failed in committee in the Ohio legislature, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. H.B. 469, which we discussed in September, would have required the installation of a breathalyzer device on an offender's ignition. A driver would have to blow into the the device to start the car, which would prevent the engine from starting if too much alcohol was detected on his or her breath.

According to the Enquirer the bill faced opposition from the Ohio Judicial Conference and the Ohio State Bar Association. Chief worries about the bill included issues of restricting judicial sentencing discretion and a concern that the mandatory penalty would cause more cases to go to trial, creating a burden on Ohio courts. Ohio DUI laws currently allow a judge to order an ignition interlock device for a first-time offender, but do not require it. The devices do become mandatory if an offender is convicted a second time in six years. H.B. 469, or "Annie's Law," so-named for an attorney who was killed by a drunk driver in 2013, would have removed a judge's discretion in sentencing first-time offenders, requiring them to impose the ignition interlock penalty for any case in which they granted driving privileges.

According to the Enquirer, although the bill was expected to come up for a vote in September, opposition by the Judicial Conference caused it to be pulled from the agenda of the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Gary Scherer, R-Circleville, one of the bill's co-sponsors has now confirmed that the bill is dead, stating that despite "major concessions," the Ohio Judicial Conference still objects to the bill.

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