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Virginia Legislature Tackles DUI

Virginia, like several other U.S. states, is currently considering the advantages of cracking down on DUI offenders by increasing penalties and preventative measures. The state is focusing its efforts not only on drunk drivers, but also on teen drinkers who might succumb to alcoholism now or later in life.

One bill currently under consideration by the Virginia house would require ignition interlock devices in the vehicles of anyone convicted of driving under the influence. The interlock devices - which prevent drivers from operating their vehicles if intoxicated - require the driver to exhale into a breathalyzer-type device that measures blood alcohol concentration. If the driver's blood alcohol concentration is higher than the level programmed into the device, the vehicle will not start. In addition to requiring a blood alcohol concentration test before the vehicle starts, some interlock device models also require periodic re-tests while the vehicle is in operation.

The proposed bill would require these devices in the vehicles of all people convicted of DUI, no matter whether it is the person's first conviction. The supporters of the bill see it as a preventative measure to avoid future infractions.

Some legislators oppose the bill, arguing that requiring an ignition interlock device is too severe a punishment for first-time DUI offenders. There is near-unanimous support for these measures when they concern repeat offenders.

Another bill under consideration by the Virginia legislature would require police officers to ask suspected DUI offenders where they obtained their last drink prior to being arrested. The purpose of this bill is to identify establishments where employees might be violating Virginia's alcohol laws.

Since it is illegal to serve intoxicated customers in Virginia, law enforcement would be able to investigate bars, clubs, restaurants and other venues where multiple DUI offenders have consumed their drinks after becoming intoxicated. The legislation fails to consider that drivers may lie to police, thereby skewing the results of their investigations.

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