DUI: Part of penalty to ease in the year ahead

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX -- When the new year begins, some DUI offenders will face shorter sentences when it comes to the use of a mandatory ignition-interlock device.

Arizona is known for having some of the toughest DUI laws in the country. In September 2007, the state mandated the use of ignition-interlock devices for all DUI offenders, as well as jail time.

Under a new law passed by the Arizona State Legislature this year, the ignition-interlock device sentence will drop from a year to six months for first-time, non-extreme DUI offenders who participate in an alcohol-education program.

Groups including Mothers Against Drunk Driving rallied against the measure, saying six months is not long enough for offenders to change their behavior.

Those who backed the legislation say it should not be seen as a break for people who get behind the wheel drunk.

"It's a reduction, but it's not a reduction," said Alberto Gutier, the director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.

"Those six months carry a lot of 'ifs,'" he said. "You must behave properly, no crashes with any kind of property damage. Also ... you can only have two violations up to 0.08, anything after that you have to fill the whole year."

The ignition-interlock device can cost more than $100 to install and around $80 per month to maintain.

Proponents of the new law have argued the year-long requirement is financially unfair to first-time offenders.