Just blow: Ignition-interlock device

We read this week that Arizona’s DUI sentence for first-time offenders will be eased slightly in 2012. Does anyone else find that surprising?

As the Arizona Republic story reports:

“Starting Jan. 1, Arizona drivers convicted of a first-time DUI offense will get a slightly gentler sentence.

“A new state law will require first-time offenders to have an ignition-interlock device on their vehicle for six months, instead of the current requirement of a year.”

You may read the whole story here.

As the story goes on to say, Arizona is one of “the toughest states in the nation when it comes to DUI laws.” In addition, this sentence-reduction comes not from the defense lawyers, but from a lawmaker, Sen. Linda Gray (R-Glendale), “who has led the effort for 13 years to strengthen the state’s DUI laws.”

You read that and you ask, What’s up? Why the sudden change in a state that likes its sentences stiff? Unfortunately, the reporter may not have been as curious as we are. The odd bedfellows remain a mystery.

Last April, I wrote about the ignition-interlock law. This may suggest some of the movements behind the scenes that led a conservative lawmaker to decide to reduce a penalty on DUI offenders.

Does anyone else have any insight into the turnaround? And is this a one-time anomaly, or may there be space for variation elsewhere in the state’s sentencing regime?