Houston DWI Defense Lawyer Joseph LaBella Weighs in on Report about Proposed ‘Ignition Interlock Program’

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The DWI defense attorney in Houston at Joseph LaBella & Associates is asked about a news story about a proposal to require first time DWI offenders to use alcohol breath monitors in their cars.

While this proposal may be well-intentioned, there are many problems with these breath-testing devices. There have been reports of ‘false positives.'

Commenting on a recent news report about a proposal to force individuals convicted in Texas of drunk driving for their first time to use alcohol breath monitors before they get behind the wheel, Houston DWI defense attorney Joseph LaBella said such devices are too severe a penalty for first-time offenders and may overburden the court system.

LaBella commented on a Dec. 17 report in CBS Dallas-Fort Worth (“U.S. Pushes States On Disabling Drunk Drivers’ Cars”). According to the story, officials from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration have urged states to require convicted first-time drunk drivers to install and use “ignition interlock devices” before they get behind the wheel of their vehicles.

“While this proposal may be well-intentioned, there are many problems with these breath-testing devices,” LaBella said. “There have been reports of ‘false positives.’ That is, a driver who gets behind the wheel might not be able to start the car because he may have eaten certain foods or used mouthwash shortly before blowing into the device. In addition, the fees associated with installing these devices also will disproportionately hurt lower-income drivers."

LaBella said Texas currently has tough penalties for first-time offenders. He said a DWI conviction (a Class B misdemeanor) can result in a fine of up to $2,000, a jail sentence of up to 180 days, a license suspension of up to one year and annual surcharges. These are penalties for those who have a blood alcohol concentration of at least .08 percent.

First-time offenders who have a BAC over 0.15 percent will face more severe penalties. A conviction of DWI with over .15 percent BAC is punishable as a Class A misdemeanor and comes with a fine of up to $4,000 fine and up to one year in jail, LaBella said.

“The implementation of a new interlock device program also could overburden the already taxed court system,” LaBella said. “Many people who are arrested for the first time on a DWI charge and facing the ignition interlock requirement will choose to go to trial, which will create a greater workload for the courts.”

According to the CBS Dallas-Fort Worth article, the NHTSA released guidelines for states to use “ignition interlock programs” that require drivers to blow into a breath analyzer before – and while – driving. The car will not start if alcohol is detected, according to the article.

The CBS Dallas-Fort Worth article said that although 20 states require the use of ignition interlock devices for first-time offenders, the devices are required in the state of Texas only for repeat offenders or for any combination of DWI, intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter.

“What we’ve seen at Joseph LaBella & Associates is that the majority of first-time drunk drivers are eager to get their lives back on track,” LaBella said. “They know that Texas takes DWI cases seriously, which is a big incentive for them to avoid further convictions.”

LaBella said individuals charged with DWI should seek the advice of legal counsel. He said a defense attorney can make sure their rights are fully protected.

About Joseph LaBella & Associates

For over 20 years, criminal defense attorney Joseph LaBella has fought tirelessly to protect the rights of DWI arrest victims in Houston, Conroe, and throughout Texas. Working with clients facing DWI charges, LaBella has tried over 100 cases and has a 90 percent success rate in obtaining successful outcomes for clients. Along with drunk driving cases, LaBella also handles probation violations, murder charges, case dismissals, drug crimes, sex crimes, and hit and run charges.

If you’re looking for more information on what to do if you’ve been arrested for a DWI in Texas, call 1-800-395-5951 for a free case consultation.

Joseph LaBella & Associates is located at:
220 W Davis St.
Conroe TX 77301

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