NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Changes in Texas DWI laws could help first-time offenders keep convictions off their records. In order to have convictions deferred, drivers must install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles. To start their car, a driver has to hum while breathing into a breathalyzer that’s connected to the vehicle.
“So basically you turn the key on and the vehicle will not start and it requires the client to perform a breath sample and it’s looking for an alcohol level over the rate of .03,” said one mechanic with Smart Start Ignition Interlock in Nacogdoches.
Even if the alcohol level is less than that, the device documents instances of driving after drinking. Mechanics say this device is highly effective at preventing repeat offenses.
“It just clicks in my hand and it says analyzing, and once they see the word 'pass’, it allows the vehicle to start,” he added.
“They really do save lives," Smart Start manager Joe Garcia said. "Mothers Against Drunk Driving got the data from the eleven major manufacturers. In the state of Texas alone last year, 32,000 attempted starts were adverted because the individual had alcohol.”
Garcia says he works closely with attorneys helping first-time offenders keep their record clear.
“Once we install it, they come back once a month," he said. "We download their report, everything that’s transpired with that vehicle the last 30 days. The report gets sent to the monitoring authority.”
He also says offenders have to pay for these devices themselves, and that they can cost up to $100 a month in some cases.
“They have that along with court fees, probation costs," Garcia said. "It’s a costly offense.”
Garcia says the best thing drivers can do to avoid all of this is to avoid drinking and driving in the first place.
“If you are gonna go out drinking, there’s nothing wrong with that, but be smart and have someone be your designated driver.”
New deferral laws for DWIs will go into effect on September 1st. Attorneys say deferred adjudication is not available for felony DWI cases or for individuals with a criminal record.