Beginning July 1, 2012, convictions for DWI in Virginia Courts will require the defendant to install an ignition interlock device on his vehicle. In the past, this requirement only applied to drivers whose blood alcohol content had been determined to be 0.15 or higher, but new legislation extended the requirement to all drivers convicted under Virginia’s DWI statute. As we approach the July 1 deadline, however, a new issue is arising.
Given the time it takes for a DWI case to go from arrest to trial, many people will find themselves convicted in July or August for offenses committed in May, June, or earlier. At that time, Courts will face the question of whether to apply the pre-July 1 law to those offenders (meaning no interlock is required), or to treat them the same as those whose offenses happened after the law changed (meaning that interlock would be required). It seems likely that many judges will rule that everyone convicted after July 1 will require an interlock device, even though the law was more lenient at the time the offense was committed.
For lawyers and defendants alike, this may mean that there is an incentive to resolve cases before the July 1 deadline so that the Court does not order the installation of an ignition interlock device as part of the sentence. It also means that after the July 1 deadline passes, we can expect to see more DWI trials in Virginia courts as people charged with DWI try to avoid the costs, inconvenience, and stigma associated with having an ignition interlock device on their car.