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Ignition Interlock Device FAQs and Information



Ignition Interlock Devices

In some states, ignition interlock devices are mandatory after every DUI conviction. Other states allow for them as an alternative to license suspensions or revocations. There are several different ways in which a driver might either be required or permitted to have an ignition interlock device installed. Ignition interlock laws differ drastically from state to state, and the legislation is constantly changing. It is therefore very important that you consult with a local attorney for more specific information on the laws in your state and how it may affect you.

What is an ignition interlock device?

An ignition interlock device in the DUI context refers to a device similar to a portable breath test that has the ability to measure breath alcohol level and render a motor vehicle immobile.

How do ignition interlock devices work?

Before a vehicle is started, a sample must be given. If the sample given contains a measurable amount of alcohol (usually between .02 and .04 %), the interlock device prevents the engine from being started. Once an alcohol free sample is given, the engine will started. Most interlock devices also then ask for additional alcohol free tests at random periods while the vehicle is running. So not only do you have to blow to start the car, but you also have to blow periodically to keep the car running. This is to prevent someone sober from starting the car for other drunk drivers.

If at any time a sample is not given, or a sample over the limit is detected, the car will not simply just shut off. Instead, an alarm of some sort will be triggered, and the car will flash it’s lights or honk it’s horn until the ignition has been shut off. Failure to provide a valid sample will be logged internally by the interlock device. The log will be printed or downloaded every time the machine is calibrated, usually in 30 or 60 day intervals. Any violations reported in the log will result in additional penalties.

How much do ignition interlock devices cost?

Ignition interlock devices must be purchased or rented from private companies, and usually cost anywhere from $65 – $100+ per month. Some companies charge additional fees for installation, and often a deposit is required. Additional fees may apply to maintenance and calibration, as well as transmittal of the information to the DMV. DUI offenders that are ordered by the court to install the device usually must pay their own interlock costs. Some states have legislation stating that courts cannot order installation if the offender cannot afford it. In those cases, the person’s license is typically suspended all together.

Can the ignition interlock device be bypassed?

Some devices may be bypassed by certain mechanical methods. However, success in doing so is likely a self-defeating proposition because the machine registers attempts to bypass, which are then automatically reported by the interlock company to the state motor vehicle agency. This can then, in turn, add additional periods of interlock requirement. In other words, not a smart thing to try.

Now, why might I need an ignition interlock after a DUI, and for how long?

Interlocks after convictions:

The most common and basic way to incur an interlock requirement is by getting a DUI conviction in a state where ignition interlocks are mandatory. How long you will be required to have one installed is likely to increase with the severity of your offense or other aggravating factors, such as if you are a repeat offender. The interlock may be required as part of your punishment or your probation.

After Implied Consent Suspensions:

In some states, like in Arizona, as long as a person does not have a suspension due to a previous chemical test refusal within a certain time (in AZ it’s 7 years), and so long as certain other minimal requirements are met, a special work permit may be obtained if the person agrees to voluntarily install an ignition interlock device.

Ignition Interlock Device Laws By State:

The ignition interlock laws vary drastically from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Most states are following the modern trend and are adopting some form of interlock legislation. Only three states currently do not use ignition interlock devices for DUI offenders at all – Alabama, South Dakota, and Vermont. 19 states have some variation of legislation that includes a mandatory interlock law.

The more conservative states (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico and Washington) mandate installation of the device upon every conviction of any DUI. Other states require it only in certain circumstances, such as for repeat offenders or those with high BACs. These states include Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

All other states have discretionary interlock laws – meaning courts have the option of ordering interlock device installation.

As explained above, some states allow installation of the interlock device as an alternative to a licence suspension, which may be an attractive option for those that need to drive for work or personal reasons. Again, be sure to check your local laws for applicability, and consult with an experienced attorney in your area for more information.

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