Suspensions and Ignition Interlock Devices (IID) – licenses for those who can afford them.

The next big change in Maine DUI law is the new suspension periods.  Since 2009 the suspensions for repeat DUI’s are longer – a lot longer.

For first DUI it is the same – 90 days.  The old suspension for a second DUI in 10 years was 18 months.  Now it is 3 years.  For a third DUI in 10 years it was 4 years.  Now it is 6 years.  For a fourth and subsequent offenses it is still 6 years.  Except for a first offense, there are no work licenses.

Maine is a rural state.  We have no buses or trains outside of a couple of cities.  For most people a second or third OUI in 10 years means the end of their job.  It means families are going to fall into poverty.

When the Maine politicians made the suspensions longer they included their idea of a safety valve.  The new suspensions can be shortened if the person puts an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on their car.

An IID is a machine hooked to the car’s ignition.  Before the car will start the driver must breath into the IID.  If the IID detects any alcohol at all the car won’t start.  Once the car starts there are two more checks during the first half hour of driving.  If the IID detects alcohol while driving the lights and horn start going on and off.  Records of every breath are recorded.  If the driver tests positive the license can be suspended again.

With an IID the 3 year suspension for a second DUI is shortened to 9 months.  The IID stays on the car for 2 years.  A third DUI is shortened from 6 years to 3, with an IID for 3 years.  A forth or subsequent DUI is not shortened with an IID, but after the 6 years is over the driver must have an IID for 4 years.

For some people – the people who can afford an IID – this is a pretty good deal.  An IID isn’t cheap.  It costs $80 to install it, $60 every month to rent it, $15 every 3 months to calibrate it, and $40 to take it out when the time is up.  For someone making minimum wage that is 6% or more of take home pay.  That is if someone still has a job after 9 months or 3 years without any license.

A lot of families fall below the poverty level when a wage earner loses their job. Children go hungry.  Families fall apart.  There has to be a better way to help people keep jobs and still protect the people on the roads.

How about allowing a work license with an IID right away – from the first day of the suspension?  The driver would have to show they already started alcohol treatment.  The driver would have to stay in treatment until the counselor says it’s okay to stop.

Yes, there would be financial hardship.  But the hardship would be a lot less.  Fathers and mothers would not be unemployed for months or years before getting a license.  More families would stay together.   It isn’t perfect.  But it’s a whole lot better than putting people out of work and families on welfare.

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