Local criminal justice officials were given a demonstration Wednesday of a device designed to prevent DWI offenders from driving while intoxicated through a combination of breath analysis and photo recognition technology.

Representatives of Smart Start, a new car ignition breath analyzer, presented a program at a luncheon at Uncle Roy’s Catfish & Seafood Grill.

“When this technology is put into use it saves lives,” Smart Start Judicial Services Liaison Sally Bridges said. “Just in the past year, our analyzer has stopped a drunk driver from starting their car over 200,000 times.”

An ignition interlock is a device that drivers blow into before attempting to start a vehicle. If alcohol is detected, the car will not start, and sometimes an alarm will sound from the car to notify local law enforcement.

Bridges said her company’s device is different from analyzers sold by three other companies because of patent-protected technology that ties photographs to the ignition interlock device. By using the photo ID module, officials can positively identify the user of the device and minimize tampering.

“With about 1.4 million DWI arrests each year, fewer than 10 percent of all DWI offenders ever drive with an interlock,” Bridges said. “We can do better than that.”

Earlier this summer, approximately eight Brown County officials, including Brown County Court-at-Law Judge Frank Griffin, attended a week-long training on DWI courts in Austin. After that training, Griffin said such a court that includes intensive supervision and treatment for drunken-driving offenders could be in operation in Brown County as early as Oct. 1.

The court would be targeted at offenders who have one or two DWI convictions, meaning they are still misdemeanors, with possible referrals from district court, where three or more convictions make the offense a felony.

Brown County courts handle about 300 DWI cases a year, Griffin said.