CONCORD, N.H. (MyFoxBoston.com) -- A New Hampshire bill being considered by state legislation would give first-time drunk driving offenders a way to stay on the road.
The legislation would give judges the power to decide to allow a first-time DWI offender to stay on the road using a limited license if the person used and paid for a car ignition sobriety system and proved a need to drive.
Driving privileges would be restricted to keeping or getting a job, attending treatment programs, receiving medical care, or taking an immediate family for health-care appointments, according to State Rep. Steve Shurtleff.
"I think this is a win-win for everybody. It keeps people that are impaired of the highways because of the device on the vehicle," he said. "It also provides a person to continue to earn a livelihood and support their families as they should."
The bill, which passed the House on a 17-1 vote, is receiving bipartisan support.
"This doesn't put a family on welfare because you had a DWI and lost your job," said Rep. Bob Fesh, a member of the New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
First-time offenders would also need to pay for and use an interlock system that is wired to a car's ignition. To turn the car on, drivers must blow into the device, and if it detects too much alcohol in the driver's system, the system prevents the car from turning on.
Though many New Hampshire sheriffs are against the bill, lawmakers in favor of it have the support of the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Those group members want to see more interlocking devices for convicted drunk drivers.
The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police said the bill sends a bad message to drunk drivers - that there are fewer consequences to getting behind the wheel intoxicated.
Goffstown Police Chief Patrick Sullivan questioned the effectiveness of the ignition interlock devices as a law enforcement tool.
"That's a concern, that people can bypass these things," he said. "While it is definitely a deterrent, and a measure, it's not the total answer."
Chief Sullivan pointed to Saturday's DWI arrest in Pelham, N.H. of a Lowell, Mass. man.
John Levasseur, 46, was charged with DWI and possession of marijuana, after officers there pulled him over, and allegedly found Levasseur intoxicated with empty hard alcohol bottles scattered throughout his car.
Police said Levasseur has 2-prior DWI convictions and had an ignition interlocking device on his car. He allegedly told police he blew into it and was able to start the vehicle on his own.
The House will take up bill when the legislature is back in session in January and if it is approved, will move to the Senate for a vote.