Upper Arlington City Council recently approved a new mandatory jail sentence for OVI offenders who tamper with ignition interlock devices that measure drivers' blood-alcohol levels before they can start their vehicles.
In January, Gov. John Kasich signed "Annie's Law," which amended the state's regulation of people convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and allowed first-time OVI offenders unlimited driving privileges if they agree to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles.
Ignition interlocks require drivers to blow into the devices, which measure blood-alcohol levels, before they can start their vehicles. The new state law also provides that anyone who tampers with or circumvents the devices can have their license suspensions extended by 60 days or require the offender to wear a continuous alcohol-monitoring device.
But Upper Arlington City Attorney Jeanine Hummer believes the state penalties for tampering with or circumventing an ignition interlock don't go far enough.
Upper Arlington City Council agreed, and voted unanimously Feb. 27 to impose a mandatory three-day jail sentence on anyone in the city convicted of illegally working their ways around the devices. Those offenders also are subject to a fine ranging from $300 to $1,000.
The penalties also apply to anyone who is required to have an ignition interlock but drives a vehicle without one.
"As prosecutor for the city, it is (my) opinion that the remedies provided by state law for tampering with or circumventing the interlock are not harsh enough compared to the gravity of the conduct," Hummer said. "If a person tampers with or circumvents the interlock, it is very likely because the person has been drinking and wants to drive.
"This shows blatant disrespect for the court's authority and for the safety of innocent drivers and pedestrians," she said. "Likewise, a person who drives a vehicle without an interlock device, contrary to court order, demonstrates disrespect for the law and may be doing so to avoid testing positive for alcohol on the interlock."
Hummer said the newly passed Upper Arlington ordinance provides for additional "criminal liability." She said she proposed jail time because state law prevents cities and other municipalities from imposing vehicle and licensing sanctions.
Upper Arlington City Councilman John C. Adams said he supported the measure because it was endorsed by the City Attorney's Office, as well as Upper Arlington's police and fire departments.
He added Upper Arlington hasn't seen widespread tampering with ignition interlock devices, but city officials have obligations to protect the public from potentially unsafe drivers.
"It's something we care very deeply about," Adams said.
"If you try disconnecting the interlock device or try to get around it, then there's a hefty penalty.
"It's seen here as a very serious offense."