LIHU‘E — There needs to be a genesis change in the interlock law regarding offenders caught driving under the influence of alcohol.
Deputy County Attorney Justin Kollar made this point while providing an update on ignition-interlock legislation at the Kaua‘i Police Commission meeting Friday. He is a member of a working group crafting a bill for State Legislature addressing concerns within the current law.
The main concern is the period of no driving before the permit is approved. The law requires a valid license at the time of application and disqualifies past offenders. Kollar said the group is advocating the permit be awarded closer to the time of arrest to avoid continued intoxicated driving. The goal is to operate a vehicle safely and not under the influence, he said, using a device to ensure people are driving sober.
The interlock is a handheld device not much larger than a cell phone with a digital readout and a tube for the driver to blow in air. It is linked to the ignition system and will not allow the vehicle to start if it detects alcohol at a levels above those applied by authorities.
The driver makes an initial test to start the car and is required to make additional tests during the duration of travel that are recorded and eventually transmitted to the authorities.
According to the State of Hawai‘i, there are 20 states with interlock sentencing requirements in certain cases involving DUI. The permit is approved by request or court order as a condition of sentencing.
Hawai‘i was 47th out of the 50 states to adopt the law for all first-time DUI offenders. There are currently about 1,000 devices in operation across the state and about 250,000 in use nationwide.
In Hawai‘i, a DUI offender is required to use the interlock device for one year for a first offense, 18 months for a second and two years for a third.
Kollar said there are about 300 DUIs on Kaua‘i per year. There are fewer than 100 devices in place on Kaua‘i and he would like to see more offenders using them.
Kollar said work stalled when it was turned back by the State House Judiciary Committee, but that the small task force working group has identified unforeseen consequences and made the necessary corrections needed to present it in this legislation cycle.
The commissioners asked several questions and expressed concerns about drivers using other cars or operating without the device.
Kollar clarified that the offenders license would show up as revoked for suspension. They cannot be legally driving without the permit and the device present.
The obvious way to cheat is to have a non-drinking individual blow into the device for the driver. The state requires the devices to have a synchronized digital photo during the blow as evidence of the user.
Interlock installation runs $70 to $150 and ranges from $60 to $80 per month for monitoring and calibration, with reduced costs for indigent drivers. There are no interlock devices for motorcycles.
In other business, the commission reported that insufficient evidence was available to prove a complainant that an officer went above the call of duty in forcibly removing someone from a property.
The commission then called for an executive session to discuss complaints against Kaua‘i Police Department officers. Complaints allege officers used unnecessary force on an individual; unjustified and unconstitutional actions; discourteous and harassing behavior; overbearing conduct; and conduct unbecoming.
The next commission meeting will be held at 9 a.m. on Nov. 18 in the meeting room of the Moikeha Building in Lihu‘e. For information or to file complaints, contact staff support clerk Mercedes Youn at 241-4920 or email email@example.com.
• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or tlaventure@ thegardenisland.com.