Bill could allow first time OUI offenders to keep license

6:24 PM, May 8, 2013   |    comments
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BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER)-- First time O.U.I. offenders might not have to lose their driver's license, but they will need to pay for it. A proposed bill would allow those facing their first charge to install an ignition interlock device to skip license suspension.

Frank Harris with Mothers Against Drunk Driving said, "It's more of an effective approach to dealing with drunk driving than hoping for the best and taking away the license of a convicted drunk driver."

Supporters hope this will cut down on first time offenders re-offending. Some, however, disagree with parts of the proposal. Defense attorney Wayne Foote said one problem with the current draft is that it treats all first time offenders the same.

According to Foote, first time offenders with a blood alcohol level lower than .15 are not likely to re-offend.

Foote said, "People that are not a public safety concern should not be burdened with the extra cost. They should be allowed to have work licenses or if they want the interlock to get the interlock. But at least for work licenses for the full 90 days there's not need to give them the 180 day suspension."

Under the current law, those faced with their first charge will lose their license for 90 days. The proposed bill would allow the offender  to keep their license, but use the ignition interlock device for 180 days.

There is a cost once the offender is approved for the device. The average cost is $80 installation, $60 per month, $15 every three months, and $40 to remove the device.

"That may not sound like a lot of money until you look at low-income Mainers, people who are disabled, students, people that work a lot of service industry jobs. A hundred dollars a month is a lot of money," said Foote. 

Supporters argue this is in the best interest of both the offender and the public.

Harris said, "Ignition Interlocks are effective in reducing repeat offenders.

According to the center of disease control and prevention, Ignition interlocks reduce repeat offenses and save lives at a greater rate than just license suspension."

The bill is currently being reviewed by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee. Lawmakers are working with groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and AAA to make the appropriate revisions.

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