In July 2010, a pilot program known as VC 23700-23701 was enacted in four California counties that included Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento, and Tulare. The program required all first-time DUI offenders belonging to or convicted in these counties to have a ignition interlock device installed into any vehicles they own or operate. However, VC 23702 was a provision included into the program which stated that if the program was found to be ineffective based upon a DMV report, it would be automatically repealed as of January 1, 2016.
Currently, VC 23702 is currently in effect, stating that, “This chapter [VC 23700-23701] shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2016, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2016, deletes or extends the date.”
The law, known as VC 23700 stated, “Upon a first offense, the person shall install an ignition interlock device in all vehicles owned or operated by that person for a mandatory term of five months.” This five month period of having is a minimum requirement but can last for the duration of the defendant’s probation, up to three years.
A young 22 year-old adult, who recently graduated from California State University Los Angeles, was a first-time offender convicted of a DUI in Hollywood last spring for driving with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.13%. Upon the student’s conviction, the judge required the individual to pay $100 for the installation of the device, and is required to pay almost $2 a day everyday for the person’s 2-year probation. The source shared that they are also required to pay for the removal of the device once the probation period is over. Due to the financial burden of their conviction, the individual is looking to get the court to approve the shortening or termination of their probation.
“This was really hard for me,” said the CSU grad, “because I was just about to graduate when I was convicted, and I was in the middle of applying for a lot of jobs. And the fees I just told you about are just the fees for the device. I still was required to pay a lawyer I hired, court fees, and my $2,000 ticket as well.”
The fees for the interlock ignition device are charged daily but are paid on a monthly basis, with differing rates to each individual according to their court’s decision.The source admitted that they know that they made a terrible choice to drink and drive, but felt that the penalty of the device was “overkill” to an already expensive punishment.
Another individual, 23, who was a first-time offender and convicted of a DUI in Van Nuys back in the fall of 2013 for driving with a BAC of 0.18%. The source is a Washington resident, and because the individual was convicted in Los Angeles county, they were still required to install the interlock ignition device. However, the source claims that they were able to dodge the would-be law for his probation through a loophole. “I told the DMV and the court that the vehicle I was convicted in was my parents’ car, and they had taken away the car from me so I no longer was operating or had access to a vehicle. They weren’t going to monitor me 24/7, so I was able to get out of it. I still don’t have a valid driver’s license, but at least I didn’t have to pay all those fees.”
The source claims that it was reasonable for them to give up their ability to drive rather than pay for the fees attached to the interlock ignition device. “Even with the assistance the court would have given, there is still a daily fee that can go almost $3 a day. Imagine having to pay that for your entire probation–which mine is three years. It would have sucked me dry. Besides, I had that giant $2,000 ticket to pay for in six month’s time,” said the individual.
VC 23700-23701 did not only apply to first-time offenders, but it also affected repeat offenders as well. According to VC 23700, second-time offenders are required to have the interlock system installed for a minimum of a year. Third-time offenders are required a minimum of two years with the device installed in the vehicle(s) they own or operate. A fourth offense mandates the interlock system remain in that person’s car for three years. Additionally, the person must have a valid driver’s license reinstated before operating any vehicle whatsoever. If an individual chooses to violate any of these regulations and is caught, the mandatory time required of them to have the device is then reset for the allotted time ruled by the judge according to their crime that they are guilty of violating.
The pilot program was designed to extend over five years, end in 2015, and would become a state law in July contingent on whether or not the amount of first-time and repeat DUI offenders decreased in the four counties. The statistics would be taken from the Department of Motor Vehicles’ 2015 Annual report of the California DUI management information system to see if indeed the amount of first-time and repeat offenders had decreased in the past five years. VC 23701 says, “On or before January 1, 2015, The Department of Motor Vehicles shall report to the Legislature regarding the effectiveness of the pilot program authorized under this chapter in reducing the number of first-time violations and repeat offenses…” Due to the DMV’s 2015 report, which is still not released to the public, VC 23702 is now officially in effect unless a new statute terminates or extends the January 1, 2016 deadline.
Even though the 2015 annual report is currently unavailable for public view, the DMV has released the 2014 report, which gives statistics for the four counties from 2010-2012. From the first two-years, Alameda county saw a 2.2% total decrease in DUI arrests. Los Angeles county saw a 1.3% total decrease in DUI arrests. Sacramento county saw a 24.5% total decrease in DUI arrests. Lastly, Tulare county saw a 0.5% total decrease in DUI arrests.
All four counties saw decreases in DUI arrests from 2010-2012, yet the statistics for 2013-2014 are unknown. However, the statistics are inconclusive as to how many of these are actually first-time offenders.
There are two sides concerning the Vehicle Code 23700-23701. The first, believes that with the penalty of an interlock system guaranteed, more people will be less likely to drive under the influence and thus prevent more accidents related to driving while intoxicated. The other, believes that the interlock system is ineffective and inconvenient for a first-time offender.
Cloyd Havens, an attorney from the Law Office of Newell & Havens stated, “I think it is not a good idea for first-time offenders. The device is not only very inconvenient for the driver, but it also is a distraction while driving. While that danger may be offset by keeping habitual drunk drivers off the road, it may not be offset when it was a first-time offender who must use the device.” Havens added that if this law had been passed this year as an official state law, the overall penalty for a DUI in California would have “increased significantly.”
Captain Frank Chavez of the Azusa Police Department stated that if the state legislature felt that this law was a just and reasonable punishment for both first-time and repeat offenders, that as an officer of the law, would be bound to enforce it. Chavez stated, “I am confident in the legislative branch of government to find a just penalty for the offense.” Chavez also made the point that the overarching responsibility of a law of this nature is to ensure public safety above all. “Naturally, if there is a device to avoid crisis, that seems logical,” stated Chavez, saying that trying to intervene before any tragedy happens seems be a reasonable explanation for this law.
According to the findings of the 2014 DMV annual report, “of the total number of crash fatalities, the percentage of alcohol-involved fatalities increased from 38.5% to 39% in 2012.” Additionally, the report also shows that the number of people injured as a result of an alcohol-related collision increased by 1% from 2011 to 2012. Therefore, even though the total percentage number of arrests and convictions for DUI’s had decreased from 2010 to 2012, the actual percentages for fatalities and injuries increased.
Of course, this law will be no longer effective as of January 1, 2016. As the date grows nearer, questions are beginning to rise. If a convicted person’s probation period extends beyond VC 23700’s termination date, are they still required to have the interlock device? Additionally, will there be some sort of reimbursement for those who were penalized under the pilot program?