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Mr. Tumelty represented Helena Hendricks, who was charged with first degree murder in Atlantic County Superior Court. The defendant faced a number of additional charges, including armed robbery, conspiracy and possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose. At the conclusion of a jury trial that lasted three weeks, the defendant was found "not guilty" of all charges.

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New Jersey Considers Requiring More DWI Ignition Interlocks

Ignition interlocks are the latest attempt to get repeat DWI offenders off the roads. But as more advocate for using them, even for first-time offenders, others express concerns about whether this punishment is necessary.

Interlocks are installed in a car, at the expense of the offender, and require that the driver blow in the device’s tube for a breath sample before the car will start. The car will only start if the driver’s blood-alcohol level (BAC) is below the legal limit of 0.08. The device comes with a camera that takes a picture to ensure the sample is coming from the driver.

Even if the driver passes the first test, the device requires more samples randomly during the trip. If the driver fails to give a sample, the device sets off the car horn and flashes the vehicle’s lights. Some ignition interlocks even have a GPS system so that police can locate the driver.

In the United States, interlocks are usually used only for people who multiple DWIs or very high BACs. But there has been a new push to mandate interlocks for first-time offenders. Now in 16 states, one DWI can result in an interlock. In New Jersey, interlocks are given only to first-time offenders with a BAC of more than 0.15.

Critics argue that requiring interlocks for all first time offenders is excessive. They make the point that for most people the idea of losing their license is punishment enough, as most need a car to get to work every day.

In addition to a high price tag (leasing the interlock costs $99.50 per month), the interlock may not always be accurate. It is very sensitive and may even pick up a BAC from gum or mouthwash.

If accused of a DWI, the threat of having to install an ignition interlock is yet another reason to put forward a strong defense.

Source: Asbury Park Press, “DWI ignition interlocks: Safeguard or excessive punishment for first-time offenders?” Larry Higgs, August 19, 2012.

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