The Campaign For DA

6.24.2015

A MADD Lie: A New Texas Law Requires Ignition Interlock Device For All First Time DWI Offenders?



So much misinformation. Everyone is patting themselves on the back for a new law they say requires those convicted* of DWI for the very first time to have an ignition interlock installed in their cars if they wish to legally drive.

Nope.

This new law says that if your license is suspended for a first time conviction and you want an occupational licensean ignition interlock can be a condition of the license.  (I say "can" because the judge can waive it in the interest of justice.) But the point is: If there is no suspension, there is no interlock requirement under the new law.

The practical matter is that hardly anyone's license is suspended for a first time DWI conviction. Why? If you are convicted and placed on probation, state law mandates that you take an alcohol education program. If you complete it within 180 days, state law mandates there will not be a license suspension for the first time conviction.  See Texas Transportation Code 521.344(d) 

So if there is no suspension, there is no interlock requirement. (Edit: The Dallas Morning News had an article about the law the day after I wrote this which said that people convicted of first time DWI will now "be able to drive as long as they have an ignition interlock system installed in their car . . . .
Previously, those drivers had to accept a license suspension." That is absolutely wrong. If the information in that article came from Jason Derscheid, MADD’s North Texas executive director, he should be embarrassed.)

A license suspension for a first time DWI conviction typically only happens if you were too poor to bond out of jail and just "sat it out"  and eventually received a conviction without a probation.  Those poor people are not entitled to take an alcohol education course to avoid a suspension.  So congratulations. MADD. Even if those folks took the initiative to get an occupational license once they got out of jail, they may not now because of the cost of the interlock. They'll just drive without it.

MADD will eventually get what they want, but they didn't get it this time.  In the meantime, I'd like to learn about MADD's "relationship" with interlock companies.
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*(For Legal DWI Gurus Only Who Still Might Get Bored: Yes, I know you can get an ALR suspension prior to conviction for giving breath or blood which is over .08 or for refusing to provide a sample, but I don't think the new law applies to occupational licenses in those situations. It deals with suspensions because of a conviction only, right? The official House research paper only references convictions. And sponsor Rep. Jason Villalba in a press release only referenced convictions.   The text of the new law, which amends multiple sections and can be a bit mind numbing, is here. If it applies to ALR suspensions, it doesn't jump out at me. Amendments to 521.246 seem to be the heart of the new law and they only concern convictions and not ALR suspensions. The only part that concerns me is the amendment of the horribly constructed "waiting period" statute of 521.251, but I think that amendment actually allows the judge to waive waiting periods for occupational licenses which are required in some cases - even in some rare ALR cases under subsection b  - so long as there is an interlock involved. That's helpful. Nevertheless, MADD sent out a press release in late May that said the new law applies to all ALR suspensions and reasserts it now. I think that's a lie. But I'll admit sometimes it takes years before the courts figure out what amendments have done to a law.)