NJ Enacts Ignition Interlock Law for DUI First Offenders

Drivers convicted of DUI in New Jersey will now be required to use the ignition interlock device, under “Ricci’s Law,” which the New Jersey acting governor signed earlier this month. It was named after Richard “Ricci” Branca, a 17 year old who was the victim of a fatal DUI accident. The new ignition interlock device requirement applies to all subsequent DUI offenders and first offenders who registered a blood alcohol level of .015 or above. The ignition interlock device will be mandatory in all breathalyzer refusal cases, according to the new law.

First offenders will be interlock required for 6 months to 1 year and subsequent offenders will be interlock required for a period of 3 years. Like Massachusetts, NJ will require the interlock during the term of any DUI hardship license.

A similar bill is being considered in Massachusetts. Senate Bill 1925 will require all Massachusetts DUI First Offenders to use the ignition interlock device while on a hardship license and for at least a 6 month period thereafter. I can virtually guarantee that this bill will pass and the Massachusetts interlock program will be expanded to include first offenders.

Proponents of ignition interlock programs tout it as a lifesaving measures designed to protect the public. However, substances other than alcohol can and do trigger false positive readings. The devices are far from infallible and in Massachusetts, for example, these alcohol readings can result in a 10 year or lifetime license revocation. With such high stakes, drivers who have experienced interlock malfunctions and false positive alcohol readings in Massachusetts suffer frustration and incredible anxiety, with their driver’s licenses hanging in the balance. Depending on the penalties in New Jersey, drivers there may soon suffer the same fate.