Annie’s Law Draws Fire From Judges

Ohio judges and the state Bar Association are not in favor of a bill called as Annie’s Law, which would require first-time DUI offenders in Ohio to install an ignition interlock device in their motor vehicles.

On Monday, executive director of the Ohio Judicial Conference, Mark Schweikert, sent a letter to the bill sponsors, Republican Reps. Terry Johnson and Gary Scherer and said that the group, which represents judges in Ohio, is not supporting the bill as it restricts judicial discretion.

The letter stated, “The attending judge has many options to monitor or supervise the accused or offender as necessary. One option is the interlock device, which is one of the most expensive and burdensome options”.

Current law permits the judges to order installation of ignition interlocks, which require drivers to give a breath sample to the device that measures their BAC levels before allowing the engine of the vehicle to start. House Bill 469 would make it compulsory for first-time offenders, like as is now required for those convicted of DUI 2 times in six years.

Supporters in which the National Transportation Safety Board and Mothers Against Drunk Driving are included, have forced legislative action, which was expected this fall.

House Judiciary Committee held a hearing but action on the bill was postponed. If passed, Ohio will become the 23rd state to require the installation of interlock devices for 1st time offenders in their motor vehicles.

According to supporters, the interlock device is a better choice than a license suspension that is too often ignored by violators and they continue driving with a suspended license. They said that data shows that the devices decrease recidivism among DUI offenders by up to 75% but the data from Ohio of the year 2007 was referenced by Schweikert which showed that 77% of DUI offenders that year were first-time offenders, while 18% were committing a 2nd offense. He wrote, “Their risk to reoffend is low. For this reason judges are more selective in imposing the interlock restriction”.

According to the group’s top lobbyist, concerns of the state Bar Association and those of the judges are same regarding the bill which the other groups are forcing for a legislative action.

The bill was named “Annie’s Law” for 36-year-old Annie Rooney of Chillicothe, a prosecuting lawyer who died in July 2013 by a driver who was driving under the influence of alcohol and who had been taken into custody 3 times, with one conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol and two plea deals for lesser charges.

Schweikert said the bill will also increase the number of drivers who refuse to give a blood sample for a blood-alcohol test and increase trials, as there will be less incentive to enter an early plea. More trials, according to him, “may result in a reduction of the conviction rate. If the defendant is found not guilty, then the ignition interlock requirement is moot”.

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