New Zealand Law Society - Corrections-funded alcohol interlock licence second pilot

Corrections-funded alcohol interlock licence second pilot

This article is over 3 years old. More recent information on this subject may exist.

Information for lawyers

From 3 July 2017 the Department of Corrections will fund a further 240 alcohol interlock devices for eligible offenders on community sentences.

Findings from the first pilot, which began on October 2015, showed that an alcohol interlock is more effective when probation officers have greater oversight. The second phase of the pilot will require probation officers to monitor their offenders’ progress with the programme, and respond to any violations.

“We are asking lawyers to inform their clients of this funded pilot and to recommend an alcohol interlock licence to judges at sentencing,” says Corrections’ Director, Programmes and Interventions, Juanita Ryan.

Drink-driving offenders often face long driving disqualification periods imposed by the courts. With the interlock programme, offenders have the option of a three-month disqualification before being able to drive again without putting the community at risk.

“This allows the offender to maintain employment and continue to look after their families – provided they don’t drive after consuming alcohol,” says Alcohol and Other Drugs advisor Alana Foster.

The second phase of the pilot aims to combine participation on the alcohol interlock programme with participation in treatment, as well as to increase the ability of probation staff to support offenders through the process. Interventions might include, but are not limited to referrals to community-based drink-driving programmes, departmental programmes (eg MIRP/Kowhiritanga), and brief interventions provided by probation officers. The pilot will be available to offenders who are:

  • Sentenced to a community-based rehabilitative sentence of over 12 months including intensive supervision and home detention (nb, the sentence length must cover the alcohol interlock licence period, including the initial three-month disqualification).
  • Convicted of an alcohol driving offence and have previously been convicted of such an offence within five years, or have a high reading of >800mg breath alcohol or 160mgs blood alcohol.
  • Motivated to adhere to the alcohol interlock requirements.

The devices

An alcohol interlock device is connected to the start-up mechanism of a car and acts as a vehicle immobiliser. It is not possible to start the car until the driver has successfully passed a breath alcohol test.

National pilot and funding

Funding has been secured from the Justice Sector Fund for the department to fully fund 240 alcohol interlocks. This is a national pilot so this sentencing option will be available to judges throughout the country.

Corrections continues to work with Smart Start Interlocks Ltd and the Automobile Association for the provision of the interlocks and the associated licences. Corrections will fund:

  • The cost of the alcohol interlock licence ($200),
  • The lease of the device and its installation,
  • Monthly downloading of data,
  • Removal of the device at the end of the pilot or if the offender chooses to opt out,
  • The fee for a zero alcohol drivers’ licence ($66).

The offender is responsible for the following costs:

  • Extra service fees resulting from violations ($45 per service),
  • Transferring the interlock to another vehicle if required ($175 per transfer),
  • Any costs incurred if the offender is unable to progress to a zero alcohol licence at the end of 12 months due to violations.

"The interlock has helped me impose limits on my drinking. I would strongly recommend putting one on every car in NZ, that’s how strongly I feel about it. It’s the most awesome thing that has happened to me – I just wish they had been around 20 years ago."
— Client with six drink-drive convictions

Alana Foster is an Alcohol and Other Drug Advisor with the Department of Corrections.