State Rep. Hill, Sen. Ward: DUI ignition interlock bill likely to pass Senate

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Alabama is the only state without some type of DUI ignition interlock law.

State lawmakers, back in session May 24 after a two-week break, have tried to change that several times in past years.

The latest attempt to require repeat DUI offenders – and some first-time offenders – to use the device was introduced by state Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana, and passed the House with a 90-0 vote earlier this month.

The bill is likely to clear the Senate before the end of the legislative session June 9, Hill said.

“We’ll be working this week and next week to make sure it gets on one of those special order calendars,” Hill said May 23. “Unless they just get bogged down on some other stuff, we’ll get this one passed this year.”

Lawmakers are “very, very close at this point,” he said.

“I have not seen a whole lot of resistance on it this time, as I have seen in the past,” Hill said.

The bills would require all repeat DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. Offenders would have to blow into the device and register a blood alcohol concentration less than the legal limit of 0.08 for the vehicle to start.

The bills also would affect certain first-time offenders.

The device would be required if, at the time of a first DUI offense, the person’s BAC was 0.15 or greater, a child under the age of 14 was in the vehicle or a person other than the offender was injured.

There are 54,043 people in Alabama with three or more DUI convictions and 22,306 with five or more convictions, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In 2009, 280 people were killed in crashes involving drunk drivers.

“MADD urges the Senate to take swift action in passing HB 361 and sending it to the governor’s desk before the end of May,” MADD National President Laura Dean-Mooney wrote in a press release earlier this month.

Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, sponsored the Senate bill.

“We’ve needed it for a long time now,” said state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster. “I expect it to be coming up on the floor for final passage soon. I feel like in the last seven days it will get final passage.”