2019 brought in a new and important DUI law in California.
Effective January 1, 2019, anyone convicted of a DUI that occurred in 2019 will be required to install a vehicle breathalyzer, also called an Ignition Interlock Device (“IID”), in order to avoid a suspension of driving privileges by the DMV. This is an expansion of the IID program that had previously been in effect for select California counties, including Alameda county.
Under the new law, anyone convicted of a first-time DUI will need to install an IID for six months to restore their full-driving privilege, or for a full-year for a restricted driver’s license (to and from work, etc.). Drivers convicted of a second-time DUI will need to install an IID for a full year, and people convicted of a third-time DUI will need to have an IID installed for two years.
The details of this new law can be found online here:
A number of private organizations lined up behind this bill, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is also urging all states to more frequently require IIDs in the cars of people convicted of DUI, and for longer periods of time.
There was also a change in the DUI law in the state of Utah. It is important because this shows us what may be on the horizon for us here in California. Whereas most states make it illegal for a noncommercial driver over 21 years old to drive with 0.08% blood alcohol content in their system, Utah has now lowered that level to 0.05%.
This is a change that the NTSB has urged for all states, and apparently Utah has been the first to agree. We can assume that some legislator in California will make such a proposal in Sacramento, and there will probably be very few legislators who will oppose it.
In addition, we have long suspected that the use of prior DUI convictions will eventually be chargeable for a defendant’s lifetime. It was only a few years ago that the priorability of DUI convictions was 5 years, then it went up to 7 years, and now it is at 10 years. We predict that someday, prior DUI convictions could be used for a person’s lifetime.
This means that if you have prior DUI convictions that are older than 10 years, you will no longer be in the clear. We have had clients with more than five prior DUI convictions in their lifetime, all of them spaced longer than 10 years apart. If DUI convictions can be used for a lifetime, the next time such a person is changed with a DUI, it will be a felony, and they will face several years in state prison without any jail substitute available.
If you think these predicted changes in DUI laws are unrealistic, just imagine the pressure on any given legislator in Sacramento. When faced with a proposed change in the law to make things worse for people charged with DUI, do they want to vote “no” and risk being labeled as “soft on crime” or “soft on drunk drivers”? Of course not. The safe course of action would be for a legislator, when faced with any proposal to make laws stricter on drunk drivers, to vote yes, and to even try to make the news as a prominent supporter of such legislation.