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DUI offenders use loopholes to avoid interlock devices – Casper Star

Hundreds of convicted drunken drivers may have used loopholes in
Wyoming’s mandatory ignition interlock law to avoid having the
devices installed in their cars, a state legislator said last
week.

Legislation passed last year requires the devices, which prevent
drivers from starting their cars if they’ve been drinking, to be
installed in the vehicles of first-time offenders convicted of
driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of .15 percent or
higher. But fewer than 20 percent of the 745 drivers who met that
criteria actually installed the devices, according to data from the
Wyoming Department of Transportation.

A blood-alcohol concentration of .15 percent is nearly twice the
legal limit in Wyoming.

Some of that discrepancy can be attributed to a loophole that
concerns first-time offenders who are required to install the
devices, according to state Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper.

As the law is currently worded, timing is the issue. The state
can only require the devices to be installed for first-time driving
under the influence offenders based on the blood-alcohol level
listed in the paperwork filed after conviction. The level listed in
documents filed after the arrest can’t be considered.

If the blood-alcohol level is only listed in the arresting
documents, WYDOT can’t force an offender to install the ignition
interlock, Perkins said.

“There were probably several hundred first-time DUIs that would
have been required to have ignition interlocks that didn’t happen,”
he said.

The technicality has allowed prosecutors and defense attorneys
to use the interlocks as a point of negotiation in plea bargains,
the lawmaker added. In exchange for a guilty plea, a prosecutor
might agree to stipulate that a defendant’s blood-alcohol
concentration was below the amount where the device becomes
mandatory.

“That wasn’t the intent [of lawmakers],” said Perkins, who’s a
lawyer himself.

There are other problems with the law, which also mandates
interlock devices for offenders with multiple convictions. For
example, some offenders would simply allow their licenses to be
canceled as a consequence of ignoring the mandate, then drive
anyway.

A third issue has arisen from defendants who have the device
installed before they receive their official notification from
WYDOT. If an offender gets the device before WYDOT becomes
involved, there is no way of knowing if he’s failed subsequent
interlock tests, Perkins said.

Perkins is working with WYDOT and the Legislative Service Office
to craft a bill that will close the loopholes, he said. He expects
to sponsor the bill in the upcoming legislative session.

Wyoming’s mandatory interlock ignition program began in July
2009. Between that time and the end of last month, 500 devices have
been installed in vehicles, said Don Edington, driver services
program manager for WYDOT.

Of those, 133 were installed in the cars of first-time offenders
with blood-alcohol concentrations of .15 percent of higher.
Although 745 people were actually convicted of that crime during
that period, officials can’t say for certain why the others didn’t
get the devices.

Their licenses may have been suspended, revoked or canceled
altogether, according to Edington.

“We honestly don’t know,” he said.

Reach reporter Joshua Wolfson at (307) 266-0582 or at
josh.wolfson@trib.com. Visit
http://trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/wolfjammies/ to read his blog.
Follow him on Twitter @joshwolfson.

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