Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Jim Wells County Correspondent

Jim Wells County Justices of the Peace will be stepping up the use of the Interlock System for DWI offenders. They met at the courthouse earlier this month to discuss new information they received from the state through a continuing education course they attended in May. JP Jose "Kino" Rodriguez said that as part of a conditional release on bond for a second DWI charge, the Interlock System will be used to keep DWI offenders from starting their vehicles when drunk.

"As of September 2005, we had to order an interlock system, put one in as part of the conditions," Rodriguez said. "Anything over the legal limit, the machine would not allow the car to start."

As the law stands, Rodriguez said on the first DWI offense, it is optional, but the judge could order it done. Those who failed to have one installed in their vehicle when ordered could face arrest after 30 days, Rodriguez said.

The JPs just received the forms, in English and Spanish, which they are required to give the defendants concerning the system.

As soon as the sheriff's department prints them out, they will be given to DWI offenders in jail during the bond process. Rodriguez said the forms will be distributed as early as the first of July.

In the Coastal Bend area, 11 counties are serviced by one office which provides installation of the Interlock System.

Rick Cruz, owner of Rick's Detailing in Corpus Christi, is the only authorized installer of the Interlock system in the area.

Smart Start is the nationwide company that produces and sells the Interlock System. Rick's Detailing covers installations for individuals as far north as Victoria, and as far south as Laredo. Smart Start is based out of Irving. Cruz said in the average week, his company receives up to two installation requests, but he said the program really couldn't be measured in that way.

"You can't really go by numbers like that. As far as installs, I wouldn't say they're in abundance," Cruz said.

The machine measures for alcohol contents in the body through the driver's breath, and is calibrated to record each test.

"In the state, .08 is legally drunk. If you blow that, you won't be able to start the car. If you blow a .01 or .02, it will give you a warning, but you're still not legally drunk. Everything is recorded into the machine, and the offenders have to get it calibrated once a month. They get five violations a month, if they failed five violations within a month, they will get locked out," Cruz said.