Tougher DUI punishment clears major hurdle

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -- Tougher DUI punishments, even for first time offenders, clears a major hurdle at the State Capitol on Tuesday.

The State Senate, for the first time in six years, passes legislation that would require first time offenders to install a 6-month interlock breathalyzer in all cars.

It's been nearly 15 years since Carter Hill's son died when the car he was in went off the road. The driver of the car was intoxicated. "Not a day don't go by when I don't think about my son."

Carter says if the interlock bill was in place then, "that car that my son was in would have never started."

For Carter -- and the thousands of others affected by a drunk driver -- news that breathalyzers could soon be required to be installed into a convicted drunk drivers car for at least 6 months, after the first offense is a major win.

"People will hear about it and say I need to think twice about getting behind the wheel of a car when I've been drinking," said Chris Konschak with MADD.

That's exactly the idea behind the bill, which finally passed the Senate this week -- where it has died for the last few years.

Just imagine, it could be your life, everyday. Whether it's on the way to work, or to drop your kids off at school... anytime you try to get in your car, you will put your keys in the ignition, pull out a breathalyzer and give yourself a test.

Opponents say the new legislation would overload the system, causing repeat offenders to "slip through the cracks."

Konschak says yes it will mean more work for parole officers, but quickly points out, "We're talking about life saving legislation." For all families across the commonwealth.

The bill now heads to the House of Delegates for approval. The Delegates approved a similar bill in the past. If it does pass, the bill will then head to the governor's desk for final approval. If it all gets the green light, the new law will go into effect on July 1st.

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