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May 20, 2009

New Ignition Interlock/Insurance Requirement To Take Effect July 1; Offenders Without Driving Privileges Should Check Status

A state law that takes effect July 1 will impact a number of Missouri drivers who must install ignition interlock devices in the vehicles they drive.

An ignition interlock device is a breath-testing instrument connected to a vehicle’s ignition, horn and headlights.  To start the vehicle, a driver must breathe into the device without registering a detectable blood alcohol concentration.

The new law will automatically affect future repeat offenders of Missouri’s alcohol-related driving laws, but it will also affect past repeat alcohol-related offenders who have not reinstated their full or partial driving privileges before July 1.

Requiring an ignition interlock device will still be an option judges may impose at sentencing, but under the new law it will be an automatic requirement for certain repeat offenders, and it will be administratively enforced by the Missouri Department of Revenue.

Senate Bill 930/947 was passed last year by an overwhelming margin in the Missouri General Assembly and signed into law in July of 2008.  It was approved in the Senate by a vote of 29-5, and in the House by a vote of 132-13.

“The General Assembly sent a strong message when it passed Senate Bill 930/947,” said Karen King Mitchell, director of the Missouri Department of Revenue.  “The message was that those who repeatedly violate our state’s drinking and driving laws must face the consequences of their actions. The department is now notifying affected people so that they will realize how the new law applies to them.”

There are some general guidelines on who will be affected.  If a driver receives an “alcohol-related offense” and has a previous alcohol offense on his or her record, the driver may be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in order to reinstate their driving privilege.  An “alcohol-related offense” is defined as any license suspension or revocation under the state’s administrative alcohol laws, a refusal to submit to an alcohol/drug test in certain situations or a conviction for any other offense related to driving while intoxicated.  This definition also applies to Missouri drivers who have committed these offenses in other states.

“Each person’s case is different, so it is important for drivers with previous alcohol-related offenses to review their driving history,” Mitchell said.  “If someone is unsure of their status, I urge them to contact their attorney or the Department of Revenue to be sure that they are complying with the new law.”

Drivers who are unsure of their status may call the Missouri Department of Revenue at (573) 526-2407.  The automated number is available 24 hours every day.  Persons wanting to access the system will need their driver license numbers.

All drivers affected by the ignition interlock provision of the law will need to have the device installed prior to having their full driving privileges reinstated or before they are granted limited or restricted driving privileges.  To learn what steps need to be taken to reinstate driving privileges, go to http://dor.mo.gov/mvdl/drivers.

The device must be certified and approved by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT). Once a driver has had the device installed and had his/her driving privileges reinstated, the device must remain in the vehicle for at least six months.  The driver is also required to report to a certified vendor once a month to ensure that the device is working properly.  For a list of approved ignition interlock devices and installers, go to www.modot.gov/safety/ImpairedDriving.htm or call MoDOT at 1-800-800-2358.

The appropriate courts will have the option of imposing other requirements for those convicted of alcohol-related driving offenses, such as requiring the device to be installed in a car for more than six months.  If a driver is convicted of failing to comply with the ignition interlock requirement, their driving privilege will be revoked for one year.  A second such offense would result in a loss of driving privileges for five years.

Effective July 1, the new law also requires drivers who have had their license revoked for refusal to submit to alcohol or drug tests to obtain and file with the Department of Revenue proof of automobile liability insurance to get their license reinstated.  Proof of insurance must be filed with the Department of Revenue and maintained for a two-year period from the date of revocation.  The most common proof is known as an SR-22 filing, and must be filed by the insurance company on behalf of the driver.

Besides the new SR-22 requirement, some drivers may have to meet additional conditions to get their license reinstated.  These include paying a reinstatement fee and/or completion of SATOP (Substance Abuse Traffic Offenders Program).

The Department of Revenue has begun informing individuals who will be affected by the new law.  A letter is being mailed out by the department this week, and another one will be issued in July to those who have not had their driving privilege reinstated before the deadline.