House and Senate bills that would require an ignition interlock device for first-time offenders convicted of driving under the influence — bills that recently passed their respective chambers — might be hitting some speed bumps on their road to Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Senate Bill 378, sponsored by Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, would require interlocks for at least six months for first-time offenders who test above the legal limit of 0.08 percent blood alcohol content. House Bill 279, sponsored by Del. Salvatore R. Iaquinto, R-Virginia Beach, does the same. Fifteen states have similar laws.
Currently the law requires judges to impose the interlocks — which prevent a car from being started when a driver is under the influence — for a first-time offender who has a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent or higher and for second and subsequent offenses of the DUI law.
But Republicans in the House Courts of Justice Committee, including the chairman, Del. David B. Albo, R-Fairfax, have voiced concern over the lower threshold for first-time offenders — including, but not limited to, the logistical issues of accommodating what they believe would be a dramatic increase in the demand and waiting time to have the devices installed.
Senators in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, including its chairman, Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, have expressed similar concerns, particularly over the impact the cost and the wait for the device could have on the ability of offenders to maintain employment by getting to and from work legally.
When House Bill 279 came before the Senate Courts committee Monday, the panel amended Iaquinto’s bill to raise the threshold for mandatory first-time interlock installation to 0.12 percent blood alcohol content. The measure cleared the committee and now heads to the full Senate.
Albo is expected to seek a similar amendment to Senate Bill 378 if it emerges from a House subcommittee. Meanwhile, McEachin said he will seek