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California ignition interlock device law now in effect

Amid the hubbub of the holidays and the celebration of the new year, the news of a law that took effect Jan. 1 that affects people convicted of drunk driving in California could have been overlooked.

But it's important to know.

The new law requires those with drunk driving convictions to install an ignition interlock device in their cars.

Years in the making, the law was signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016 and finally has been enacted.

California did a trial of the ignition interlock device in four counties, including Los Angeles, beginning in 2010. The results were positive. A Department of Motor Vehicles study showed that first offenders who used the device were 74 percent less likely to drink and drive again.

"Expanding this already successful program statewide helps ensure those convicted of DUI do not become repeat offenders, and make our roads safer," Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) said. "This is a win for communities up and down the Golden State."

Under the new law, first offenders in California whose actions don't cause injuries can choose whether they want a restricted license for a year or to use the device for six months. Both first offenders who cause an injury to someone else and second offenders must install an ignition interlock device for a year.

Drivers convicted of their third offense will be required to have the device installed for two years. For those with four or more offenses, it is mandatory for three years.

The law was celebrated by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"Ignition interlock devices are a game-changer in the fight to stop the revolving door of repeat offenders," a representative said. "Law enforcement officers across the state are already working hard to keep drunk drivers off the road. [The law] helps the system work smarter by ensuring DUI offenders can continue to work, drive their kids to school, drive to and from treatment — they just cannot drive impaired."

Making California roadways safer is a positive of the law. Still, not all people arrested on suspicion of DUI are guilty of a violation and deserve to fight the charges before being required to install such a device.

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