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Virginia DUI Bill Would Increase Penalties For First Offenders

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A Virginia bill that cracks down on drunk driving is on the fast track in the General Assembly. In previous sessions, the House had supported the measure but the Senate rejected it.

This year, identical bills are carried by Del. Salvatore Iaquinto (R) and State Sen. Donald McEachin (R). The legislation requires someone convicted of a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) with a blood alcohol level of .08-.15 to keep an ignition interlock device on their vehicle for the sixth months that they have a restricted driver's license -- the penalty for the first offense. 

This year, the bill has two key changes. On the first offense, the device, which requires a driver to blow into a breathalyzer before the car will start, is only installed on the primary vehicle that the person drives. 

"On the second offense, you have to have it on all cars titled in your name," says Iaquinto. "That's something that the federal goverment has told us, if we don't do that on the second or subsequent offenses … we could lose funding for transportation."

The other change allows a driver who believes he'll be convicted of drunk driving to pre-qualify for the interlock device rather than wait for a trial and potential backlog from the device manufacturer. Bill opponents say it's just too tough on first-time offenders.

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