Drivers convicted of DUI / DWI face several potential consequences from the court, including fines, jail sentences, restricted driver’s licenses, and, for multiple offenders, the installation of an apparatus known as an ignition interlock device. Most states, including California, have laws providing for either the discretionary or mandatory use of ignition interlock devices for repeat DUI / DWI offenders. A California attorney who focuses on drunk driving defense can advise about the availability of ignition interlock devices in individual cases.
The ignition interlock device is a sophisticated system attached to a vehicle’s ignition that measures alcohol concentration in the driver’s breath. The purpose of ignition interlock devices is to prevent drivers with a measurable amount of alcohol in their systems from operating vehicles. It is a small device located inside the vehicle, near the driver’s seat, that requires the driver to blow into a handheld alcohol sensor unit.
The car cannot be started if the device senses a blood alcohol content (BAC) that exceeds a pre-set amount, usually .02 to .04 percent BAC. To prevent tampering, manufacturers of ignition interlock devices have created safeguards to ensure the system’s effectiveness. The devices are usually installed with shrink tape that reflects any tampering.
In addition, most devices document the times the device was removed from the vehicle’s power source, the date, time, and BAC recorded during each test, and any attempt by the user to bypass the system’s safeguards. Many devices require repeated testing every few minutes while driving, commonly referred to as a “rolling retest”. This feature is designed to prevent the driver from having a sober friend start the vehicle so that the motorist can drive while intoxicated.
Ignition interlock devices benefit DUI offenders and their families along with the general public. The lives of convicted drunk drivers and of others who use the vehicle can remain relatively undisrupted in terms of traveling to work, picking up children, and running errands.
Repeated studies have shown the effectiveness of ignition interlock devices. These systems allow repeat offenders to avoid vehicle impoundments and complete suspension of driving privileges. Many repeat offenders continue to drive on suspended or revoked licenses because of a lack of alternatives, which greatly increases the risks of jail time if caught.
Studies also have shown lower recidivism rates among those persons who have ignition interlock devices installed. When used by the courts or state DMVs in conjunction with a monitoring, reporting, and support program, the ignition interlock system provides DWI offenders with an alternative to full license suspension. Their use has spread rapidly across the country. As of 2004, 43 states enacted legislation providing for the integration of ignition interlock devices into the DUI / DWI adjudication and sentencing process.
Ignition interlock devices have proven to be a valuable tool that allow repeated DUI / DWI offenders to retain driving privileges. A lawyer experienced in defending drunk driving cases can evaluate each case to determine whether the device is an appropriate alternative to a suspended driver’s license.