Before addressing the mystery around disappearing funds that the Washington State legislature provided for a DUI program, a brief description of interlock ignition devices is necessary for DUI novices. An interlock ignition device is an instrument which is installed to a vehicle’s dashboard or ignition wiring and requires a driver to breath into the device to start the vehicle. As a result of suspension or revocation of their driver’s license, DUI offenders may apply for an interlock ignition license which allows them to drive a vehicle which is fitted with the interlock ignition device. If a driver registers a BAC of at least .025 on the device then the vehicle will not start. The Washington State Department of Licensing provides information on when and how to apply for an interlock ignition license as well as where to obtain an interlock ignition device at http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/ignitioninterlock.html.
Washington State provides funds for low-income DUI offenders which partially pay for the costs associated with having the device installed on their vehicles. However, one fine day the funding disappeared. It was then discovered that the funds had been diverted into another program for prison inmate treatment programs. As a criminal defense attorney who strongly believes that there should be more programs and greater funding to help inmates who are not only fellow human beings but also constitute a significant percentage of our population, I think Washington State should provide funding to both programs. But the baffling mystery in our present blog post focuses on how funding to help DUI low-income offenders to partially pay for installation of the interlock ignition devices on their vehicles disappeared and diverted into another program.
The program to assist low-income DUI drivers is important because it helps to ensure that approximately 2000 who depend on the funding do not drink and drive. The logic applied here is that a DUI offender will not only be tempted to drive a vehicle without possessing a license, but may also not be deterred from consuming alcohol and driving drunk again if there is no interlock ignition device installed on their vehicle. Note that under a standard threshold limit of .025 above which a vehicle will not start, one could still conceivably get away with consuming a beer. At the same time, the general public is less likely to face danger from a driver who is unable to operate a vehicle safely.
So now back to question of what happened to the funds. Rep. Judy Clibborn from the 41st District which covers Mercer Island has vowed to recover the funding for the low-income DUI program. I recently communicated with Rep. Clibborn who indicated that she has already instructed the Department of Licensing to continue to run the program and that the department will be reimbursed once the current funds run out. However, Rep. Clibborn also wants to get to the bottom of how these funds were diverted in the first place which she states is absolutely unacceptable.
In the meantime, the good news is that low-income DUI offenders in Washington State will continue to obtain financial assistance from the state for the installation of the interlock ignition devices. This is great program which helps both DUI offenders get back on the right track and keep the public safe.