(WTVM) - Penalties are becoming harsher for those who choose to drink and drive.
Alabama has become the 50th state to pass a law that requires motorists convicted of drunken driving to install ignition interlocks on their vehicles.
The new law was put into effect September 1, 2012 and pertains to convicted drunken drivers who have a blood-alcohol level of .15 or higher.
"This is just another step in increasing the harshness of the penalties in an effort to hopefully prevent individuals from driving while they're intoxicated," explains Lee County Sheriff, Jay Jones.
Before starting a car, drivers must exhale into a breathalyzer. If they have been drinking, the interlock will prevent the engine from starting.
The device resembles a cell phone and fits into the palm of your hand. It is connected to a module and is installed underneath the dashboard of your car. The expenses of installation and maintenance are at the cost of the offender, and fees can run from $500 to $600.
"Businesses will begin to offer that service I would think sometime in the near future," says Jones. "Of course, this law did take effect just ten days ago, so we haven't seen an individual go to court that has faced this type of circumstances. I would anticipate that it won't take long."
The first and second conviction requires you to have the interlock device on your vehicle for two years. Special licenses must also be carried indicating that the device is used. The third conviction requires the device to remain on the vehicle for four years, and the fourth offense requires the vehicle to have the device for a minimum of five years.
"It is not fool-proof," Jones says. "We know there are ways to, as there are with many things, possibly circumvent the system, but even given that fact it's still a step in the right direction and that is to do whatever we can to prevent individuals from getting behind the wheel after they've been drinking alcohol and endanger their lives and the lives of others."