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Advocate groups pushing for ignition interlocks with first OUI

You can face stiff penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol in Massachusetts. Even if it is your first conviction for operating under the influence (OUI), the court can charge you heavy fines and even take away your license for a year. But in Massachusetts, the court cannot require you to install an ignition interlock for your first OUI offense.

Massachusetts is the only state in the U.S. that does not require ignition interlocks for first-time OUI convictions. Advocate group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) hopes to convince lawmakers to pass a bill that changes that.

MADD protesting at the State House

MADD recently protested at the Massachusetts State House in an effort to get lawmakers to amend the current OUI laws. Their goal is to have a law that requires anyone convicted of an OUI to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.

An ignition interlock is a device that tests a driver’s breath for alcohol with a breathalyzer before allowing the driver to start the car. The device then requires tests periodically during the drive. If the driver tests positive for alcohol, the device will shut down the engine.

Current Massachusetts laws for hardship licenses

Currently, Massachusetts law allows a person with a first-time OUI to apply for a hardship license without requiring an ignition interlock device. While a judge can take away a person’s driver’s license for up to a year, the person can apply for a hardship license before that term is up.

People with repeat OUI convictions must have an ignition interlock device for the entire term of the hardship license.

No successful bill yet

So far, lawmakers have not successfully passed a bill to require ignition interlock devices for first-time OUI convictions. If MADD is successful, Massachusetts drivers will have an additional harsh penalty for a first-time mistake.

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