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State report shows majority of DWI offenders avoiding ignition interlock law

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DWI offenders have found a loophole in the law that's costing all of us and putting lives at risk.

A state report shows many convicted drunk drivers are getting behind the wheel without using a court ordered ignition interlock device, a system that prevents a person from starting their car if they're buzzed.

Bryant Gallagher sells the devices at Boomer McLoud in Clifton Park and says they’re more secure than ever.

“It has a camera, so if this person's trying to pass it over to someone in the car who's sober, they get caught,” Gallagher said.

August 15th will mark exactly 7 years since ignition interlock devices were enacted under Leandra’s Law, but it turns out a large number of DWI offenders who are supposed to be using the devices have found new ways to avoid using them completely.

New York's 2016 Program Report shows 77% of DWI offenders in Rensselaer and Schenectady counties who were ordered by a judge to have an interlock device installed, never did.

68% percent avoided the ignition interlock device in Saratoga County and 65% in Albany County.

What surprised us most though, the report shows 15 New York counties are in the red, meaning 90-100% of the offenders added to the program there, aren't participating.

Warren County’s Probation Department was the only local agency in the red, with 95% of its’ DWI offenders failing to participate in the program. The report says only 2 of 33 offenders in the program there, had interlocks installed last year.

Gallagher says some DWI offenders are opting not to drive because the ignition interlock costs them up to $90 a month to service, an amount we’re told is determined by the court.

“It's expensive,” Gallagher said.

But Albany County’s Stop DWI Administrator, Kerry Thompson, says many of those offenders are still driving, against the law.

“They’re back behind the wheel, undetected really,” Thompson said.

The loophole? He says many offenders are simply using a car in someone else's name.

“They're taking vehicles off the road, they're changing them to other people's names, they're borrowing other people's vehicles,” Thompson said.

Thompson says the number of offenders not complying with the interlock has been so alarming, Albany County secured a grant this summer to help pay for enforcement.

He says they even caught offenders driving to court-mandated meetings such as victim impact panels, without a device.

“We just need to increase the awareness and through enforcement, bring the number up to something that's acceptable,” Thompson said.

While DWI offenders found driving without the device are hit with additional charges, Thompson says family members who knowingly allow offenders in the program to drive their cars can also be charged.

Thompson says some family members were allowing offenders to drive their cars, having no idea they’d been convicted of DWI. He says part of the grant money was used to educate families about ignition interlocks.

Thompson says people required to have an ignition interlock have it noted on their driver’s license.

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