Flaws Revealed In Ignition Program

BERLIN – A Maryland Department of Legislative Services audit released this week revealed a large percentage of Marylanders required to participate in the state’s ignition interlock program as a condition of probation in drunk-driving cases are not being closely monitored.

The Department of Legislative Services this week released the findings of an audit of the state’s Division of Parole and Probation (DPP) after reviewing the state agency for a period of three years. Among the most alarming findings in the report is that the DPP has not been keeping close tabs on those required to install and use ignition interlock devices as a requirement of probation granted in drunk-driving cases.

“With respect to the Drinking Driver Monitoring Program, we noted that the DPP’s procedures and controls over the monitoring of cases requiring the installation and use of an ignition interlock device as a condition of probation need improvement,” legislative auditor Bruce A. Meyers said in the report. “For example, the DPP did not always obtain monitoring reports on the use of these devices as required. DPP also needs to obtain clarification of its responsibilities for reporting ignition interlock violations to the courts.”

The ignition interlock device connects a vehicle’s ignition to a breathalyzer unit. Prior to starting the vehicle, an offender must breathe into the device and if the offender’s breath-alcohol content exceeds the maximum level, or any level in some cases, the vehicle will not start. Ignition interlock devices have long been mandated as a condition of probation and an alternative to jail for drunk-driving offenders, but the report released this week found the DPP is not effectively tracking the cases.

“The DPP did not have a system in place that could readily identify or track cases requiring the use of ignition interlock devices, nor could it quantify the number of cases with this as a condition of probation,” the report reads.

As of June 2009, the DPP was monitoring over 20,000 offenders in its Drunk Driving Monitoring Program with an estimated 1,400 required to install ignition interlock systems. However, the audit found many were not being monitored. After reviewing the audit’s findings, however, DPP officials this week said they are already taking steps to correct its flawed accountability system.

“By February 2011, DPP will develop an accountability procedure that requires the monitor’s chain of command to ensure that monthly ignition interlock reports are received and reviewed on a monthly basis for each offender,” the formal response reads.

Even sooner, the DPP intends to address reporting issues to the appropriate courts where the sentences are meted out.

“By December 31, 2010, DPP will issue a directive requiring individual monitors or agents to seek written guidance from the appropriate courts regarding any court-imposed responsibilities for reporting cases that have repeated violations,” the DPP’s answer reads.