6 Years in Prison for Driving Without Headlights. What’s Up?

driving-without-headlightsLet the punishment fit the crime. It’s more than just a Gilbert and Sullivan lyric – it’s a principle of justice. And while it’s one that’s argued over for reasons we can’t go into here, it does seem strange that a woman would get 6 years in jail for driving without headlights at night. But there’s a reason.

Police have a number of ways of detecting an impaired driver. The obvious signs are weaving, hitting curbs, and the like. But officers are trained to spot subtler signs too. For instance, if a driver hangs back at a green light and doesn’t immediately proceed, that’s a sign that the driver might be under the influence.

Another is driving without headlights at night. A deputy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin spotted a driver at 1 a.m. without headlights. That alone is a violation, but when the woman in question was stopped, she tested .15 on a breath test – almost twice the legal .08 limit.

So 6 years for that? Hardly. But the woman:

  • Was driving on a revoked license
  • Had three previous OWIs
  • Had been ordered to install an ignition interlock device, but didn’t do so. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking

Ignition Interlocks – The Cost-Effective Option

If the driver in question had installed the interlock, you wouldn’t be reading this, because the device would not have allowed her to start her car after drinking.

That is how one ends up with a 6-year prison sentence after failing to hit the headlight switch. It’s hardly the ideal outcome. Had Wisconsin done a better job ensuring that its offenders installed ignition interlock devices when ordered, the state would have been spared the expense of putting up a citizen in prison. In fact, it’s the offender who pays the cost of an interlock device, making it by far the most cost-effective way of removing repeat offenders from the roads.