Proving that the Wichita Falls Times Record News Online is just a little behind what most people would consider news, a few days ago they ran a story titled “First Offense May Require DWI Device”:

Repeat drinking and driving offenders in Texas know the hassle that comes with the advanced charges, but soon, first-time offenders, too, could face a tougher crack down.

Texas state legislation mandates that repeat offenders be ordered to have an ignition interlock installed on their vehicle as a condition of their bond.

However, that could change soon, as legislators are looking at amending the law, making the interlock a requirement on the first offense.

Actually, the legislative session is over, and I’m pretty sure House Bill 1110, which would have done just that, was left pending in committee, which is fancy legi-speak for “went nowhere”. I say “pretty sure” because Texas has some funky procedures regarding the Governor’s ability to call special sessions for certain issues, but I haven’t heard of one for this… yet. Not saying it couldn’t happen.

At any rate, I found this tidbit from the article amusing. Sometimes journalists like to rile their readers up, let ‘em know what sorts of outrageous consequences there could be if a bill doesn’t pass:

For some, the device is only a temporary inconvenience.

Being a condition of bond, the suspect could be allowed to have the device removed if the case is dismissed, or the terms of the conviction or probation don’t mandate its use.

That’s right folks! You get arrested, not convicted but just accused of DWI second in Texas, and you’re going to be required to put an interlock on your car. But as the law stands now… if the state dismisses your case (or, and the article doesn’t mention this, but hey, this is bad law too) if you are acquitted…

Under current law, you are no longer required to have the IID on your car. Imagine that. The horror. Better call your legislator and, well, tell them what? Rewind time and get this bill out of committee?


From the Joliet Herald News, “SCRAM Bracelet Saves More Than Money”:

David Talarico’s business features a high-tech bracelet that has the potential to save tax dollars and — more importantly — lives.

The devices, called SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor), detect alcohol use. The bracelets are worn on the ankle by people who have abused alcohol and are in trouble with the law. Instead of going to jail, offenders wear SCRAM bracelets that monitor their bodies for alcohol 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

OK. So that’s what the SCRAM bracelet is, and yes, it is being used in Austin as well as Illinois.

For folks released on bond for a DWI 2nd offense or higher that are required by statute to install an Ignition Interlock Device, SCRAM sometimes makes sense. It allows them access to many vehicles, instead of just one, and still fulfills the requirement that ‘some machine is making sure they didn’t consume alcohol’ before starting a car. Some folks can’t be tied down to just one vehicle.

However, it is definitely more not less expensive than an Ignition Interlock. [Posting on a Sunday night; I’ll try to get some exact figures on that soon.]

The article continues:

Though some may think the bracelets are intrusive, Talarico, president of Alcohol Monitors of Illinois Inc., thinks they’re the wave of the future.

"People call this ‘Big Brother,’ but the reality is, these are for the people who need a big brother to help them along," he said. "Clearly if somebody can’t stay sober on their own, they’ll have to go to jail."

The first paragraph sets up a false dichotomy between something being “intrusive” vs. “being the wave of the future”.

And I just want to be clear on this: Talarico, based on your quote, you are at least admitting that it is Big Brother. Right? It’s just that Big Brother is or can be a good thing – that’s your point.

The article ends with an interesting quote from Talarico. I’m just going to quote it, and not comment. It’s one of those “no comment necessary” situations:

He believes the SCRAM bracelet is an important weapon to fight alcohol abuse.

Being in this business, you see both sides of it," he said. "I see SCRAM almost like the war on terror. You never know what you’re preventing, but if you believe in what you’re doing you know you’re doing good."

OK, I said I wouldn’t comment, but I’ve got an overwhelming urge to repeat that last line:

You never know what you’re preventing, but if you believe in what you’re doing you know you’re doing good.

Article 17.441 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure requires a magistrate to order a defendant being released on DWI 2nd or Felony DWI bond to install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle he owns or has access to.

What’s an ignition interlock device? From the statute:

…a device that uses a deep-lung breath analysis mechanism to make impractical the operation of a motor vehicle if ethyl alcohol is detected in the breath of the operator

The condition will be imposed on anyone arrested for DWI with a prior conviction, whether the defendant is released on personal bond, cash or cash deposit bond, surety or bail bond. In Austin, the judge that orders the condition will require a meeting with the County Pretrial Services office within 24 hours of release. The person is then given 30 days to show proof that the interlock has been installed.

Failure to install the device will result in two consequences. First, the bond will be revoked, which will result in a warrant for the person’s arrest. And second, if DPS does not receive proof of compliance, along with another fee, the person’s license will be suspended until such proof is shown.

(Click for contact information about the 3 companies that Austin DWI defendants can use to install an interlock device on their vehicle.)

From today’s Austin American Statesman:

House Bill 934 by Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, would require first-time offenders in driving while intoxicated cases to use an ignition interlock device in their vehicles. The driver must blow into the device to have his or her blood alcohol content measured. The car will not start if the driver is legally intoxicated.

Under current Texas law, judges are allowed to use discretion in requiring ignition interlock for first-time offenders.

Opponents of the measure say the bill will strip judges of their discretion.

Fellow Austin DWI Attorney Ken Gibson recently commented on this idea on KXAN’s coverage of this bill:

Gibson said it’s the repeat offenders who need ignition interlocks, and requiring them for first-time offenders is a result of aggressive lobbying by the manufacturers.

"Ignition interlock is a multi, multi-million dollar business, and to require everybody to have them in their cars is going to increase their business by a thousand times," Gibson said.

Ken’s right, of course, that the folks that make money installing Ignition Interlocks lobby hard for these types of measures.

And I can add this: most of the people that come to my office after an Austin DWI arrest aren’t alcoholics. Putting aside for now those that aren’t guilty of DWI to start off with, many are primarily my clients for making a one time bad judgment.

And don’t forget that the costs and penalties involved for first time DWI convictions in Texas are already punitive. This pending legislation is a classic example of politicians pandering to knee-jerk reactions, rather than real problems.

Conditions Requiring Motor Vehicle Ignition Interlock – Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 17.441

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), a magistrate shall require on release that a defendant charged with a subsequent offense under Sections 49.0449.06, Penal Code, or an offense under Section 49.07 or 49.08 of that code:

(1) have installed on the motor vehicle owned by the defendant or on the vehicle most regularly driven by the defendant, a device that uses a deep-lung breath analysis mechanism to make impractical the operation of a motor vehicle if ethyl alcohol is detected in the breath of the operator; and

(2) not operate any motor vehicle unless the vehicle is equipped with that device.

(b) The magistrate may not require the installation of the device if the magistrate finds that to require the device would not be in the best interest of justice.

(c) If the defendant is required to have the device installed, the magistrate shall require that the defendant have the device installed on the appropriate motor vehicle, at the defendant’s expense, before the 30th day after the date the defendant is released on bond.

(d) The magistrate may designate an appropriate agency to verify the installation of the device and to monitor the device. If the magistrate designates an agency under this subsection, in each month during which the agency verifies the installation of the device or provides a monitoring service the defendant shall pay a fee to the designated agency in the amount set by the magistrate. The defendant shall pay the initial fee at the time the agency verifies the installation of the device. In each subsequent month during which the defendant is required to pay a fee the defendant shall pay the fee on the first occasion in that month that the agency provides a monitoring service. The magistrate shall set the fee in an amount not to exceed $10 as determined by the county auditor, or by the commissioners court of the county if the county does not have a county auditor, to be sufficient to cover the cost incurred by the designated agency in conducting the verification or providing the monitoring service, as applicable in that county.

The 3 main providers of Ignition Interlock devices in Austin, Texas for DWI defendants are:

(1) Smart Start, 2 locations:

North Austin: 401 East Braker Lane, Suite M, Austin, TX 78753.  Phone: (512) 821-9200

South Austin: 4360 South Congress Ave. Suite 11, Austin, TX 78745.  Phone: (512) 386-6306

(2) Draeger Interlock, 2 locations:

North Austin: 501 West Powell Lane #210, Austin, TX 78753.  Phone: (512) 339-4294

South Austin: 4402 South Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78745.  Phone: (512) 448-0843

(3) Guardian Interlock, 2 locations:

North Austin: 501 W. Powell Lane, Suite 215, Austin, TX 78753. Phone: (512) 836-6867

South Austin: 2123 Goodrich Avenue, Austin, TX 78704.  Phone: (512) 912-7770