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Ignition Interlock Device

Currently, all states have some kind of law regarding the use of an ignition interlock device (IID) in relation to drunk driving convictions.

An ignition interlock device also is known as known as a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID) or casually as a car breathalyzer. You might also hear the colloquial term “blow and go" among participants.

Of course, the laws vary by state (for example, the devices are mandatory in some states, while other states are using pilot programs to work out the details), but basically, the overall rules for drivers who have to use the ignition interlock are the same.

What Is an Ignition Interlock?

An ignition interlock is a court- or licensing agency-ordered device installed in an individual's vehicle to prohibit drinking and driving after a person has been convicted of DUI/DWI. Sometimes, an ignition interlock is used in place of license suspension.

Once you have an IID installed, you'll either receive some sort of installation certificate to present to the monitoring authority, or the installer will electronically notify the monitoring authority itself. (Your “monitoring authority" could be the court, a parole or probation officer, your state's driver license agency, or any combination.)

How an Interlock Device Functions

Starting the Vehicle

Before starting the vehicle, the driver must blow into the interlock device mouthpiece—if the device registers a breath-alcohol concentration that meets the programmed limit requirements, the vehicle will start.

However, if the breath-alcohol concentration is higher than the limit, the vehicle won't start. The IID will prevent the vehicle from starting until an approved breath sample is provided. Depending on the device, you could have to wait several minutes to submit another sample.

Depending on the model of your ignition interlock device, you also might have to look into a camera; this prevents you from allowing other people to blow into the IID.

Additional Breath Samples

Sometimes, after the engine is started and the person is driving, the device will request another breath sample; basically, this is another way to make sure someone else didn't provide the initial breath sample.

Generally, the ignition interlock gives you several minutes to provide the sample; this is so the driver can find a risk-free location. Should the driver provide a sample that is higher than the limit, or not provide the sample in time, the device will not turn off the vehicle; it simply will log the event and issue a warning to turn off the vehicle. Depending on the IID, it might even issue an additional warning—such as horn honking—if you don't turn off your vehicle in time.

When Courts Order IIDs

Based on the individual state's laws, a judge will order an ignition interlock device when someone is convicted of drunk driving.

However, again, this is based on state laws. For example, your state might require an interlock device if this is your first offense; if it's your second or subsequent offense, you might not be eligible for one.

Interlock Device Time Requirements

Like many variables related to ignition interlock devices, the length of time you have to keep your IID depends on state laws; too, you might be required to keep your IID even longer if your reports show you've failed a certain number of tests.

Installing an IID

Typically, third-party companies install ignition interlock devices—most often, these companies must be state- or court-approved businesses. So, your court should be able to advise you about the company/companies from which you can choose.

Because you're working with a third-party company, you can expect prices to vary (yes, the cost of your ignition interlock is an out-of-pocket expense).

Penalties for IID Tampering

States do not take tampering lightly.

At best, you're looking at an extended period of time with your car breathalyzer; at worst, you're facing a fine, license suspension, a misdemeanor charge, a felony charge, and/or even jail time.

Using Ignition Interlock Data

Most everything related to your interactions with the ignition interlock device is recorded, including but possibly not limited to:

  • Both successful and failed breath tests, as well as the breath-alcohol concentration levels.
  • Photos of yourself providing the sample (if your device has that option).
  • Missed calibrations.
  • The vehicle's global positioning system (GPS).
  • Any suspected (or confirmed) tampering.

Typically, your ignition interlock installer downloads this information and then sends the data to your monitoring authority. Depending on state laws, or you monitoring authority itself, this data might be sent immediately via wireless technology, or during certain time periods (such as once a month).

As you've probably already imagined, your future with the ignition interlock device (not to mention penalties) lies in this data.

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