PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) – Under a new state law, a judge ordered a Maine man to install an “alcohol ignition interlock” on all of his cars.
It’s designed to prevent an intoxicated person from starting a car.
Michael Henry, 37, of South Berwick was in Portsmouth District Court on Monday on a third charge of drunken driving.
Judge Sawako Gardner ordered Henry to install the ignition interlocks within two weeks. They connect Breathalyzers to car ignitions. Drivers breathe into them and if blood-alcohol content is above the legal limit, the car will not start.
The law took effect July 3. Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams said it requires repeat DWI offenders to buy and install the devices.
“It’s designed for that person with a major alcohol problem who just refuses not to drive,” said Reams. “Anything we can do to keep these people off the road should keep us all safer.”
Reams said the new law also requires the drivers put stickers on their licenses and license plates, provide proof of installation of ignition interlocks to the sentencing courts and leave the locks in place for 12 to 24 months.
Newington police charged Henry with driving while intoxicated after his license had been revoked on June 24, 2006. According to court records, Henry was convicted of DWI in 1999 and 2000.
The latest case had been delayed due to a series of continuances and Henry’s failure to appear for a scheduled July 13 hearing. He is scheduled for an Aug. 6 plea hearing, where he is expected to plead guilty to one or more of the new charges, which include the third DWI offense, driving with a suspended license and crossing a median.
Portsmouth prosecutor Corey MacDonald said people caught driving drunk probably have done it more times than they’ve been caught.
“If you’re caught twice, you’ve probably got a pretty substantial alcohol problem,” he said. MacDonald said if someone helps a driver bypass the interlock device by blowing into it, charges will be filed against the person.
Depending on the circumstances, the charges could be as severe as felony reckless conduct for knowingly putting an intoxicated person behind the wheel, he said.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 20 states mandate the devices for DWI offenders and 25 states have laws providing discretionary use.
MADD also reports that the devices can be calibrated for “rolling tests,” requiring the driver to take intermittent breath tests, preventing them from having a sober friend start the car, or leaving the car idling in a bar parking lot.