State law uses four general methods to deal with the problem of repeated offenses by intoxicated drivers. These are:
- Addressing Alcohol Abuse: Some states require drivers with repeat violations to be assessed for their degrees of alcohol abuse; some also mandate appropriate treatment.
- Licensing Sanctions: Suspending or revoking licenses of repeat intoxicated drivers for a greater period of time than they for first offenders is the law in most states.
- Mandatory Sentencing: Some states have mandatory minimum sentences for repeat intoxicated drivers.
- Vehicle Sanctions: Some states impound or immobilize the vehicles of repeat intoxicated drivers. This can involve installing an ignition interlock system, or other device on their vehicles that prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver’s blood alcohol concentration is above a certain amount.
Programs that concentrate on an individual’s alcohol-related behavior have also experienced success. For example, Milwaukee’s Intensive Supervision Probation (MISP) program reduced recidivism by more than 50 percent. The MISP program includes a component of behavior monitoring. It seems that a variety of measures are needed to address this issue and that states are providing an array of sanctions to the problem of repeat offenders of impaired driving laws.
Revoking or suspending a driver’s license is now a common penalty for violations related to impaired driving. Despite these penalties, many offenders continue to drive. Too many drivers with a suspended license receive additional traffic citations or become involved in crashes during the periods when their licenses are suspended. As a way to ameliorate this problem, many states have enacted legislation that directly affects the offender’s vehicle or license plates as a penalty for the impaired driving offense and/or for driving with a suspended license.
Driver licensing sanctions have proven to help reduce the problem of impaired driving. Non-criminal licensing sanctions have resulted in reductions in alcohol-related fatalities of between 6 and 9 percent. According to a NHTSA study, the following states have seen significant reductions in alcohol-related fatal crashes following their implementation of administrative license revocation procedures: Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Utah.
According to the NHTSA, these kinds of sanctions actually do prevent many repeat DWI offenders from driving. Those repeat offenders who continue to drive without a license tend to drive more infrequently or at least more carefully.
The NHTSA State Legislative Fact Sheet-Vehicle and License Plate Sanctions states that a variety of vehicle sanctions programs have been used successfully. For example, California’s vehicle impoundment program substantially reduced subsequent offenses, convictions, and crashes for repeat offenders in the program. These penalties work by either separating repeat DUI/DWI offenders from their vehicles or by requiring them to be sober when they drive.