DUI/DWI Law

IID: Ignition Interlock Devices

Ignition interlock devices (IIDs) are installed in a driver's vehicle after a drunk driving conviction. In some states, the judge has the discretion to require an IID restricted license. In other states, an ignition interlock device program is required to get the driver's license reinstated. Before accepting a plea deal that requires an IID, it is important to understand how the devices work and how much it costs to install and maintain alcohol interlock devices.

How an Ignition Interlock Device Works

An IID is a piece of equipment that is installed in a motor vehicle to prevent the vehicle's operator from driving while intoxicated. The device consists of a mouthpiece and an analysis unit that is attached to the motor vehicle's ignition system. The driver is required to blow into the mouthpiece to provide breath samples. Fuel cell technology detects the driver's blood alcohol level. If the driver blows a clean breath sample, with a blood alcohol concentration level below the limit, the vehicle can start.

If the driver fails a breath test with a breath alcohol content above the preset limit, the device will generally allow for a second try. If the driver fails a second breath test, the device may lock out for a period of time. The preset limit may depend on the state law, generally with a breath alcohol concentration limit of 0.02% to 0.04%.

An IID also requires “rolling samples." Rolling samples require a clean breath while the vehicle is moving. Breath samples could be required at regular intervals or with random retests. A failed breath test while moving will not shut down the vehicle. Generally, the driver will have time to safely pull over.

The device has an internal memory that stores test sample information. Drivers are generally required to have the device calibrated by an authorized service center. During calibration, the information in the IID is downloaded and can be reviewed by the court. Any failed tests may be reported to the court. Failing IID tests may result in an extended license restriction, revoking probation, or other sanctions.

IID Restricted License

After a drunk driving arrest, driving privileges may be taken away with a suspended license or license revocation. Many people rely on their vehicle to get to work, school, or get their family to medical appointments. It can be difficult for people to get by with a 6-month suspended license. Most states offer some sort of hardship license or restricted license, for limited purposes.

An IID-restricted license allows people to drive as long as they can blow a clean breath sample. In some states, drivers have to wait out the license suspension period before getting an IID-restricted license. Other states, including California, allow for restricted driving immediately after an IID is installed.

The IID restriction period may range from a few months to a few years. Factors that affect the license restriction may include prior drunk driving offenses, IID violations, and high blood alcohol content (BAC). For example, in California, a first-offense DUI requires a 6-month IID before the driver's license can be reinstated. A 4th DUI or subsequent offense may require an IID for 3 years before the driver can apply for reinstatement.

License Reinstatement After an IID

Before a driver can have their full driving privileges reinstated, they have to meet the state requirements for getting an unrestricted license. If the court requires an IID, the driver will have to wait out the restricted license period. Other requirements for driver's license reinstatement may include:

  • Pay all court costs and fees
  • Comply with probation
  • Complete DUI school and alcohol treatment
  • Get proof of insurance
  • Pay the reinstatement fee

Paying for an Ignition Interlock Device

In most cases, the costs associated with IID must be paid by the defendant. Costs for an IID program may include the lease or purchase of the IID, installation costs, and regular maintenance and calibration with an approved service provider. If the individual is going to drive more than one vehicle, they will need to pay for the installation and monitoring of an IID for each individual vehicle. If the driver does not have the ability to pay for the IID, the state may provide financial assistance based on need.

Tricking the IID and Tampering Violations

Some drivers are tempted to try and bypass the IID or trick the Breathalyzer device. The internet is full of tricks that users claim will allow the driver to start and operate the vehicle. However, many of these tricks do not work, and instead, it may alert the probation officer or courts that the driver is tampering with the IID. Some of these attempts that could get the driver into trouble include:

  • Using a balloon to blow into the breathalyzer mouthpiece
  • Having a friend blow into the device
  • Using mints or gum
  • Sucking on a copper penny
  • Eating crackers or bread

Some of these “tricks" simply do not work. Interlock technology has reacted to other bypass attempts and can now catch violators. Some devices require the driver to hum or inhale while using the device. Others have cameras installed that will record the user. IIDs can also record tampering attempts, which will be reported to authorities.

Not only is trying to bypass an IID dangerous but it is also illegal. There may be laws against attempting to tamper with the IID, bypassing the IID, or helping another driver start or operate the vehicle in violation of their driving restrictions. Penalties can include criminal charges, loss of restricted license, and extended suspension time.

An IID may allow you to be able to drive after a drunk driving arrest. However, your lawyer could help you avoid DUI criminal penalties in the first place by getting the charges dropped or negotiating reduced charges as part of a plea agreement. If you were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, contact a drunk driving attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.