New DUI law has major flaw
Oklahoma’s new DUI law has a glaring weakness.
Regardless of whether suspects are arrested for drunken driving or driving under the influence of drugs, the new law relies on ignition interlock devices to deter repeat offenses while suspects participate in educational programs designed to permanently change their behavior.
Here’s the problem: Ignition interlock devices will only prevent a vehicle from starting if it detects alcohol on the person’s breath. If the person is high on heroin, cocaine, marijuana, pain pills or an assortment of other drugs, the person can blow into the device and the vehicle will start as if nothing is wrong.
“That’s been an issue for years,” acknowledged state Rep. Scott Biggs, House author of the DUI bill.
It soon could become more of an issue if a state question to liberalize Oklahoma’s marijuana laws is approved by voters, he said.
“I don’t know of a good answer to that, yet, and the people I’ve talked to still don’t have a good answer,” Biggs said.
Brian Morton, an Oklahoma City DUI attorney who is asking Oklahoma’s Supreme Court to declare the new DUI law unconstitutional, questions the value of requiring ignition interlock devices for individuals arrested for driving while high on drugs.
“It’s (financially) punitive at that point,” Morton said. “It does nothing to stop somebody from further driving under the influence of drugs.”
Financial costs vary depending upon the interlock provider,
but one local provider quoted a price of $137.25 for the installation of the device on a car that uses a key to start plus a $75.25 monthly fee for the duration of time the device is in use. The installation price was $25 more on a vehicle with a push button start.
With some companies, there have been complaints of hidden fees.
So what is the logic in requiring an interlock device for someone arrested for driving while high on drugs?
At first glance, “it doesn’t make a lot of scientific sense,” acknowledged Dr. Kenneth Blick, chairman of the Board of Tests for Alcohol and Drug Influence.
However, Blick, Biggs and Kevin Behrens, director of Oklahoma’s Board of Tests for Alcohol and Drug Influence, all said interlock devices aren’t totally useless in keeping drivers high on drugs off the road.
“I think the thinking there is that people who abuse drugs also tend
to abuse alcohol,” Blick said.
Studies have shown that to be the case, Behrens and Biggs agreed.
The interlock devices won’t detect drugs, but if the person also has been drinking excessively, the device will detect that and prevent the vehicle from starting, they said.
“You’ve got to do something,” Blick said.
Just the inconvenience and expense of having to deal with an ignition interlock device “should discourage somebody from a repeat offense and it certainly should keep them from using alcohol along with whatever their drug of choice might be,” Blick said.
Technology currently is a limiting factor, he said.
“We haven’t really perfected an interlock type device for intoxicating substances, especially the opiates and marijuana yet, and of course that’s the big scary deal in those states that have legalized marijuana,” Blick said. “You certainly don’t want to face some headlights on a dark road late at night with somebody high on marijuana.”