New OVI Sanctions Debated By Officials

ST. MARYS — A local law enforcement official says a proposal that would require ignition interlock devices for first-time OVI offenders in order to drive strips oversight from county judges.

Ohio State Reps. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) and Gary Scherer (R-Circleville) introduced House Bill 469, also known as Annie’s Law, on Thursday. The bill would require first-time OVI offenders to use an ignition interlock device in order to operate a motor vehicle. Annie’s Law is named for Annie Rooney, who was killed by a drunk driver in July.

“We decided long ago in Ohio that driving under the influence is unacceptable,” Johnson said in a statement posted on his website. “Even so, people continue to be cut down on our highways, and far too many of these by repeat DUI offenders. That’s what happened when Annie Rooney, a beautiful, young woman, was taken from this earth by a person who continued to drive drunk. Enough is enough. We must do all we can to keep this from happening to anyone else. This bill will decrease these senseless and totally avoidable tragedies in our state.”

Current Ohio law allows judges the discretion to require ignition interlock devices for first-time OVI offenders. House Bill 469 would make it mandatory.

St. Marys Police Chief Mark Ernst disagrees with the proposal. He said judges should retain the discretion to require ignition interlock devices.

“That’s why we elect judges,” Ernst told The Evening Leader. “We put our trust and hope in them that they will make good decisions. I am against it, I think each case is different and I think it should be up to the judge to make a decision as to what’s best for the case.”

Ernst said ignition interlocks do serve as a deterrent. However, he said there are better ways to make sure the streets remain safe.

“I think awareness and strict enforcement are important,” Ernst said. “I think you will find that we do a pretty strict enforcement of OVIs. We get our fair share of them here in town. I think there is a lot of public programming out there, too, that warns of the dangers ... I think the OVI laws in Ohio are pretty strict, and I think we need to go back and trust the judges to do their job. That’s why we elected them. I think Judge Herman looks at each case and sees what is best to do for that person to get them back on the right path. I’ve served as a police officer during his term of a number of years and I have a lot of confidence in him.”

House Bill 469 has yet to be assigned to a committee.