ALBANO, DIEGNAN & JOHNSON BILL REQUIRING IGNITION BREATHALYZER FOR DUI CONVICTIONS APPROVED BY ASSEMBLY ‘Ricci’s Law’ Named for Egg Harbor Teen Killed by a Drunk Driving Hit-and-Run

ALBANO, DIEGNAN & JOHNSON BILL REQUIRING IGNITION BREATHALYZER FOR DUI CONVICTIONS APPROVED BY ASSEMBLY
‘Ricci’s Law’ Named for Egg Harbor Teen Killed by a Drunk Driving Hit-and-Run
(TRENTON) – Legislation Assemblymen Nelson T. Albano, Patrick J. Diegnan and Gordon M. Johnson sponsored to make ignition interlocks mandatory for all drunk driving offenses in New Jersey was approved 67-3 Monday by the Assembly.
“We need to send a message loud and clear to both habitual and would-be drunk drivers: the party’s over,” said Albano (D-Cumberland/Atlantic/Cape May), whose son was killed in 2001 by a repeat drunk driver. “If you get caught driving drunk you will face severe penalties and, through the interlocks, will only be able to operate your car when sober.”
The measure would be known as “Ricci’s Law” to honor the memory of Ricci Branca, a 17-year-old Egg Harbor Township teen. Ricci was bike riding with friends when a drunk driver plowed into the group and fled the scene.
When police caught the driver, his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.339 percent – more than four times the state’s legal limit of 0.08 percent. Several other teens were gravely injured during the accident; Ricci died of his injuries four days later.
Ignition interlocks are devices similar to a breathalyzer that – at the order of the courts – can be installed on the steering column and wired into the ignition of motor vehicles of drunk driving offenders.
When attempting to start the vehicle, the driver must first blow into the device. If the
interlock registers above a specific BAC – usually greater than 0.02 percent or 0.04 percent – the vehicle is rendered inoperable.
“If this legislation can save even one life, then it is well worth doing,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “Anything that makes it harder for drunk drivers to get behind the wheel of a car or truck should be immediately embraced.”
Under the Albano/Diegnan/Johnson measure (A-3073), all persons convicted of drunk driving would be required to install an ignition interlock device in any motor vehicle principally owned by the offender, though first offenders would have to have a blood-alcohol content of at least 0.15 percent.
Current law imposes driver’s license suspensions on all persons convicted of drunk driving. That penalty would be retained.
Under the bill, the interlock device would also be mandatory in all cases and, in addition, would also be required to be in effect during the period of time that the license is suspended.
Also, persons who are convicted of refusing the breath test also would be required to install an ignition interlock device.
“We owe it to every law-abiding driver to do everything in our power to keep drunk drivers off our roadways,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “Requiring mandatory interlocks will go a long way towards improving the safety of good drivers and the public.”
The court would be able to require first time drunk driving offenders to install an ignition interlock device for a period of six months to one year.
Subsequent offenders would have to install the device for one to three years.
It would be a disorderly persons offense to blow into an ignition interlock device or otherwise start a motor vehicle equipped with such a device to provide a motor vehicle to the person required to have the device, or to tamper with such a device to circumvent its operation.