MONGTOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A new law requires that some people convicted of drunken driving install devices that prevent them from starting their vehicles if they have been drinking alcohol.
The new law took effect Sept. 1 and requires the devices on the cars of anyone convicted of driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or higher. But judges are waiting to order that the devices be installed until the details of exactly how the law will be administered are worked out.
Montgomery County District Judge Jimmy Pool said he has not yet ordered one of the devices, known as an interlocking device, to be installed. So far, Pool said, only two companies have been approved to install the devices in Alabama vehicles.
Pool said he has not yet had a case come up in his courtroom where he felt the new law would apply.
Pool said he will enforce the law exactly as it is written and require the devices for drivers with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or higher, even though the legal limit for driving under the influence is 0.08.
"It's up to the Legislature if they want to tweak it, but I'll enforce it whether the Legislature tweaks it or not," Pool said.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety, Robin Litchfield, said it would be up to the Legislature and not DPS to decide if the law needs to be revised.
The devices work by having someone exhale into a breathalyzer installed on the car. If the person has been drinking alcohol, it will prevent the engine from starting.
First- and second-time offenders are required to keep the ignition interlock devices on their cars for two years. In case of a third conviction, a motorist would be required to keep the device for three years and to keep it for five years in the event of a fourth conviction. There will be language added to a driver's license indicating that a person was restricted to driving a car with the interlocking device in place.
The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences was responsible for developing the rules for use of the interlocking devices and for deciding what companies were authorized to sell the devices in Alabama. It's up to the Department of Public Safety to supervise the training of the people overseeing the program.
Michael Sparks, director of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, said the agency charged a $2,000 "nuisance" fee to companies wanting to provide the devices just to make sure the devices worked.
Sparks said he hopes the devices are successful in discouraging people from driving while intoxicated.
"I hope it helps," Sparks said. There is some type of law concerning interlock devices in all states now that Alabama has adopted the law.
Mike Wyatt of Lifesafer Interlock in Milton, Fla., said his company has received inquiries about installing the devices, but hasn't been sure how to get on the state's list of approved installers. Sparks said the Department of Forensic Sciences will continue to work to certify approved suppliers.
The sponsor of the bill setting up the program, Republican Rep. Mike Hill of Columbiana, said state officials were waiting to fully implement the program until all the rules are in place.