Georgia lawmakers eye tougher drunk driving punishments

Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill that could see first-time DUI offenders ordered to install ignition interlocks.

Georgia lawmakers may soon add an extra punishment for those convicted of drunk driving. A bill is currently being considered by legislators that, if passed, would allow judges to order first-time DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles. Currently, ignition interlocks are only an option for repeat drunk drivers under Georgia law. The proposed change is not without controversy. Although proponents of ignition interlocks say the devices have made roads safer, critics say they are too harsh a punishment for first-time offenders.

House Bill 205

The bill in question is House Bill 205, which would introduce ignition interlocks as a possible sentencing option for those convicted of their first drunk driving offense. If passed, the law would not make ignition interlocks mandatory for all first-time offenders. Rather, judges could choose to impose the devices on first-time offenders, along with other current sentencing options, such as fines, license suspensions, jail time, and probation.

Although ignition interlock devices are not without their critics, they are becoming increasingly popular with legislators. Currently, 39 states make ignition interlocks either an optional or mandatory part of sentencing for first-time DUI offenders. Proponents of the devices insist that they have helped reduce repeat drunk driving rates and have made roads and highways safer. The devices require drivers to blow a blood-alcohol content level below a preset limit before the vehicle's ignition will engage.

Too harsh a punishment?

Not everybody, however, supports making ignition interlocks a part of the sentencing for first-time offenders. Critics point out that ignition interlock programs are expensive to run - with the costs of installation often borne by offenders themselves - and that they should be reserved only for repeat offenders or those who register an especially high blood-alcohol content reading.

Others, however, insist that the devices have benefits for those convicted of a DUI. Those supporters point out that with an ignition interlock, offenders are still able to drive, which can be particularly attractive if they need a car to get to work, school, or elsewhere. By contrast, for people whose license has been suspended because of a DUI conviction, driving - even while sober - could expose them to further criminal penalties.

Effective criminal defense

Drunk driving is not something that judges or prosecutors take lightly in Georgia. Whether it is for a first or a repeat offense, anybody accused of driving while impaired should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. Everybody makes mistakes, but it is important to make sure that those mistakes do not cause permanent and irreparable damage to one's livelihood and future. An experienced attorney will fight for his client's rights and freedoms in the face of a serious DUI charge.