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June 08, 2015
Ignition Interlock Restricted License Bill Backed by Wisconsin Law Enforcement

MADISON, Wisc. - Nine law enforcement and safety advocacy groups announced their support for legislation sponsored by Representative Dave Heaton (R-Wausau) and Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) creating an Ignition Interlock Restricted License (IIRL) for drunk drivers and incentives for ignition interlock installation compliance.

Currently, ignition interlock devices (IIDs) are required for all repeat OWI offenders and first time offenders with a BAC of .15 and above. Interlocks require a driver to exhale into a device that measures a person’s alcohol level before the vehicle can be started. If alcohol is detected on the motorist’s breath above a preset limit, the vehicle will not start. There are also anti circumvention measures such as requiring a rolling retest once the vehicle has been started.

According to Greg Leck with the Wisconsin Chief of Police Association, the legislation closes current loopholes in the law that tie the ignition interlock requirement to all the vehicles the offender owns instead of the vehicles they drive. "Under current law, if an OWI offender who is required to have an ignition interlock is caught driving someone else's car that does not have an interlock, it is not a criminal offense. The Heaton/Wanggaard bill will close this loophole by tying the IID to the drivers license," said Leck.

The bill also creates incentives for IID installation compliance. "Wisconsin has had a difficult time with IID compliance. Close to 50% of offenders that are ordered to get an IID fail to have it installed," said Amy Winters, contract lobbyist for the Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers,. Winters noted that lack of installation doesn't mean that they aren't driving. "It is estimated that 50 to 70 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive with a suspended or revoked license and without auto insurance," said Winters.

Under the proposal, if an OWI offender waives their administrative suspension hearing rights, gets an ignition interlock device installed and shows proof of insurance, they can get an IIRL with no waiting period. They would also receive day for day credit for the interlock sanction at conviction. The IIRL would not have time of day or route restrictions so offenders could attend treatment, school their kids activities, go out for dinner or a movie, they just cannot get behind the wheel impaired. After conviction, the IIRL is the only license type that would be available until the offender fulfills their ignition interlock sanction.

Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association said the bill is a critical revision to the current interlock law to increase compliance and save lives. "Wisconsin has an average of over 33,000 drunk driving arrests each year resulting in over 200 fatalities and 3000 injuries" "We need to pass common sense laws that acknowledge the need to drive and insure offenders are driving sober," said Palmer

According to the group, the IIRL bill comes on the heels of a 2012 federal law change that acknowledged the purpose and route restrictions that current occupational licenses have.

"Getting offenders legally licensed with interlocks installed as soon as possible makes sense," said MADD Director of State Government Affairs Frank Harris."We have learned that hard suspensions do not stop drunk drivers from driving – just from driving legally. Interlocks are an important and lifesaving tool in protecting the public and helping OWI offenders to learn to drive sober," said Harris.

The cost of the license and the ignition interlock devices are paid for by the offender. interlocks cost around $2.50 a day. There is also an indigence provision for offenders whose household income is below 150 percent of the federal poverty line that reduces the cost by 50%.

"Reducing recidivism is critical to reducing DUI-related fatalities and injury," said Sheriff Jim Johnson vice president of the Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriff's Association. "The number of unlicensed repeat offenders is at epidemic levels, this bill is a needed measure to reduce intoxicated driving under revocation and to increase interlock compliance." The more ignition interlocks that are installed the more the public is protected." said Johnson "We expect that this bill will not only increase public safety by creating more incentives to install ignition interlock devices, but also save law enforcement time and money, allowing us to utilize limited resources more efficiently," said Johnson.

"About one-quarter of all drivers arrested or convicted of a DUI are repeat offenders. This legislation would reduce the opportunity for recidivism, which would go a long way towards keeping impaired drivers off of our roads," said Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs for AAA Wisconsin.

"Evidence shows interlocks are highly effective in preventing alcohol-impaired driving for both hardcore offenders and first-time offenders while they are installed with an average reduction in recidivism of 64%," said Ralph Blackman, President and CEO of The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. "We believe actions must be taken to improve ignition interlock installation rates and to expand treatment opportunities in conjunction with interlock program participation to achieve long-term behavior change."

"Representative Heaton and Senator Wanggaard's legislation is a sensible approach to making Wisconsin roads safer by increasing ignition interlock installation compliance and reducing drunk driving recidivism; we commend them for their strong leadership on the issue," said Michael Crivello, Milwaukee Police Association president. "We also urge the legislature to take swift action on this lifesaving measure," said Crivello.

The nine groups supporting the legislation are MADD, Wisconsin Chief of Police Association, Wisconsin Medical Society, Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers, Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriff's Association, Wisconsin Professional Police Association, Milwaukee Police Association, AAA Wisconsin and Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (


Amy Winters

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