New California law lets people with DUIs drive using special device, but not everyone's on board

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- In the past, California drivers with first-time DUI offenses would usually get their licenses suspended for six months. But a new law will allow them to still drive, only on a restricted license with an ignition interlock devices or IID.

The systems require drivers blow into a calibrated alcohol detecting machine before the car will start. The device also requires continuous breath samples throughout your drive.

Beginning in 2010, a five-year pilot study by the Department of Motor Vehicles analyzed the devices and whether they worked. The study also included Tulare County. Local criminal defense attorney Marc Kapetan analyzed the results and says they weren't all positive.

"The significant thing is that the report also found that crashes increased while people were on the IID," Kapetan said.

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Those who manufacture the devices say revoking licenses wasn't very effective with many offenders- because more than half still got behind the wheel.

"For many years we did that, we suspended licenses, we revoked licenses, but two thirds of people continued to drive illegally on a suspended license. So what's going to happen is if you get one DUI, you're going to have it on for 6 months; if you get two, you're going to have it on for a year; if you get three, you'll have it on for two years. What the device does is helps people change their behavior," said John Ulczycki of LifeSaver Interlock Ignition Co.

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But Kapetan said the study showed offenders only changed their behavior during the time the device was installed in their car. In addition, he claims the sporadic breath samples are as dangerous - if not more hazardous than driving while using a handheld a cell phone.

"So the overall safety rate in protecting the public may have the exact opposite effect because crashes have now increased because they are blowing into this machine," he said.

The fee for the device is $60-$80 a month, which includes maintenance costs. Offenders who cannot pay can ask for financial assistance. Kapetan says the new law creates a false sense of security and doesn't provide any real consequences to drunk drivers.

"You are not changing behavior, you are not punishing anybody, you are basically giving them what I consider is a benefit," Kapetan said.
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