People arrested for OWI in Louisiana would have to pay to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicles in order to gain a restrictive driver's license during the time when their full driving privileges are suspended under the provisions of a bill approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday.
HB677 by Rep. Valerie Hodges eliminates the so-called hardship license that drivers arrested for OWI can obtain to allow them to drive to and from work and other limited activities 30 days after the initial suspension of their licenses. Hodges bill would eliminate that 30-day waiting period and allow those drivers to obtain a restrictive license as soon as the suspension becomes effective — but only if they pay to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicles.
In response to a question from Rep. Patricia Smith of Baton Rouge, Hodges says the devices rent for about $2.50 per day meaning it would cost driver's forced to use the device about $75 per month.
Hodges says the trade off is that her bill would allow drivers to resume driving sooner than under present law but with better assurance that they will not be intoxicated when they get behind the wheel.
Hodges' proposed law would apply to anyone who fails or refuses to take a chemical test for intoxication. Currently, a driver who fails a chemical sobriety test has their license automatically suspended for 30 days. The law would only apply to first time OWI offenders. The license of a person who refuses the chemical sobriety test is suspended for 90 days under current law.
Mandatory suspensions for repeat OWI violators would not be affected by Hodges' bill should it become law. Current law mandates a one-year suspension of driving privileges for second and subsequent OWI offenses within five years of a first offense.
HB677 now moves to the Senate to await assignment to a committee.