AAA calls for increase in penalties for first DUI.

AAA has joined in the chorus calling for mandatory ignition interlock devices for all first time offenses. The National Transportation Safety Board has also called for IID's to be mandated for all first time DUI convictions. Currently 17 States already require the device which operates to prevent a vehicle from being started if the driver breathes into it with alcohol on their breath.

Los Angeles County is currently part of a pilot program in California requiring the installation of an IID following a court conviction for DUI, before the DMV will reinstate driving privileges.

The Distilled Spirits Council and the American Beverage Institute which represents restaurant chains, support requiring IID's for first time offenders, but only if there is an excessive breath or blood alcohol level of .15% or more. "We believe that judges should be able to distinguish between someone who is one sip over the limit and someone who has had nine drinks prior to driving. There should not be a one size fits all penalty for DUI offenders" said Sarah Longwell, managing director of the restaurant trade group.

Before practicing as a DUI lawyer in Los Angeles, I was a criminal defense attorney in England. The judiciary in England was always srongly opposed to minimum mandatory penalties for any criminal offense prefering to retain discretion over penalties and when to impose them. Judges in the UK are very protective of their independance from government and the need to maintain absolute discretion to consider every case individually on its merits and only to impose penalties on a discretionary basis when they are warranted. This system provides more fairness and allows for the consideration of all relevant mitigating information before a defendant is sentenced. In California and the United States generally, there has been a trend towards not trusting judges and requiring zero tolerance, accross the board mandatory penalties for DUI cases and other criminal offenses. This inevitably leads to inequities and inappropriate penalties in some cases. On the one hand, treating everyone the same may seem fair, but the facts of each case should be taken into account and not every case is the same in reality.


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