“Ignition interlock device”. It sounds like something out of a science-fiction movie or an old episode of Star Trek. However, these devices are anything BUT fiction. Instead, they’re a daily reality for many California residents who have been convicted of DUI!
First things first — what exactly IS an ignition interlock device?
It’s a small piece of equipment that gets wired to your car’s ignition and sits near the dashboard. With it in place, your car won’t start until you blow into it. If the device determines that your blood alcohol level is over the legal limit, it won’t allow the car to start. If your car DOES start, the device will require you to give additional breath samples as you continue on your way, to make sure that you’re still sober enough to drive.
But why would anyone install a breathalyzer in their car?!
Getting an ignition interlock device isn’t a choice. Rather, it’s something that you’re forced to install if you’ve been convicted of DUI. While this may sound like something that only applies to people with multiple DUI convictions under their belts, here in California, plenty of first-time offenders get them, too. In fact, thanks to a law that passed in 2010, ANYONE who gets convicted of DUI in Sacramento, Los Angeles, Alameda, or Tulare Counties will be required to install an ignition interlock device in their car.
Regardless of your particular situation, if the court says you have to install an ignition interlock device, you’ll have to have it installed by a state-approved installer, and you’ll have to provide proof of that lawful installation to the court.
How long do you have to get one of these devices installed?
Once the court issues its ruling, the DMV will place an ID restriction on your license — meaning that you’re only allowed to operate vehicles that have this device. So, if you have a few cars that your drive — like yours, your wife’s, and your company car, for example — you’ll have to get an ignition interlock device installed on every single one of them. And, you’ll only have 30 days to do it if you don’t want to end up with even more legal troubles!
This isn’t something that you can set and forget, though. As part of your court order, you’ll be required to get maintenance done on your ignition interlock device every 60 days to make sure it’s working like it’s supposed to.
Who pays for all of this?
In most cases, YOU do! While there is a law on the books that can minimize the costs for low-income offenders, the person who has been convicted of DUI has to pay for the installation, maintenance, and calibration of the device. If you’re stuck footing the bills all by yourself, count on spending roughly $100 to have it installed, and then another $2.50-$5.00 per day to maintain it.
What happens if you get a friend to blow in one of these devices for you?
If you think you can outwit an ignition interlock device, think again! It’s illegal for anyone but you to blow into one of these devices, and they’re smart enough to figure out when you’re trying to trick them. Specifically, these devices have special anti-circumvention techniques, so they can tell if you’re actually blowing into them, or if you’re trying to pass something like the air in a balloon off for human air.
Plus, by requiring random breath samples as you drive — and only giving you six minutes to give them — it’s tough for someone else to blow into one of these devices for you. (After all, what sober person is going to ride with a drunk driver just to blow into their ignition interlock device for them?!) To make things even more difficult, these devices come with short cords, so it’s nearly impossible for anyone but the driver to blow into them. Plus, it’s not hard for the state to take DNA samples from your ignition interlock device, which will prove beyond a reasonable doubt who has been using it!
If all of that isn’t enough to deter you from trying to cheat the system, these devices also come with anti-tampering wires, so if you try to do ANYTHING to alter the way yours works, the state will find out about it.
Anyone who is caught trying to tamper with one of these devices — or simply doesn’t fulfill all of the requirements of having one, like taking it to scheduled maintenance appointments — more than three times will immediately have their driver’s license suspended or revoked.
How long will you have to use your ignition interlock device?
That depends. If you’re a first-time offender who was arrested in Sacramento, Los Angeles, Alameda, or Tulare Counties, you’ll wind up spending five months with one of these devices in your car. But if you get convicted a second time, you’ll have an ignition interlock device in your car for an entire year. Get convicted of DUI a third time, and the required time period doubles. In other counties, there are no set time limits in place, so everything’s up to the judge in your case.
Talk about an incentive not to drink and drive in the first place!
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