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Ignition Interlock Devices In California

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What is an Ignition Interlock Device?

An Ignition Interlock Device, also known as an “IID,” is a mechanical device similar to a breath analyzer designed to prevent a driver from operating a motor vehicle with a blood/alcohol concentration which exceeds a predetermined level.

The Ignition Interlock Device is normally installed in a person’s vehicle at the direction of a court, as a condition of licensing by the Department of Motor Vehicles, at the direction of an employer or, at an individual’s own request.  The Ignition Interlock Device is fairly small and is interfaced directly with the vehicle’s electronics and ignition system.

In California, Ignition Interlock Devices are specifically calibrated to prevent a driver from operating a motor vehicle with a blood/alcohol concentration of .029% or greater.

Before the driver is permitted to start his or her vehicle, they must blow into the mouthpiece of the Ignition Interlock Device.  If the device does not register a blood/alcohol level exceeding .029%, the device will permit the engine to start.  Once on the road,  the device will periodically require “rolling” re-tests to verify that the driver remains alcohol free.  If the required breath sample is not provided or if the breath sample exceeds the pre-set levels allowed, the Ignition Interlock Device WILL NOT automatically turn off the engine; that would create an unsafe traffic condition.  The device will, however, begin sounding the horn and flashing lights until the driver can stop the car and turn off the ignition.  The Ignition Interlock Device will then not permit the engine to be re-started until a clean breath sample is provided.

Modern Ignition Interlock Devices keep a record of all activity monitored by the device.  This information is normally downloaded at 30, 60, or 90 day intervals when the Ignition Interlock Device undergoes required calibration checks at the service provider.  If any “violations” are recorded during the reporting period, that information is reported to the appropriate authority for any required penalties.

As the science and technology behind Ignition Interlock Devices continues to evolve, upgrades are coming on-line to make the system more secure and tamper proof.  For example, newer models of the Ignition Interlock Device are requiring fingerprint technology to verify that the person blowing in the Ignition Interlock Device is the same person operating the vehicle.  There are even Ignition Interlock Devices coming on-line that offer video technology to ensure the proper person is blowing into the device and driving the vehicle.

What are the California Laws Regarding the Ignition Interlock Device?

Effective July 1, 2010, the California State Legislature approved two new laws specifically centered on the use of the Ignition Interlock Device as a tool to combat drunk driving.

Law No. 1:  Assembly Bill 91 is a “pilot program” involving the use of the Ignition Interlock Device.  This pilot program was authorized to determine the efficacy of the Ignition Interlock Device to curtail repeat offenses of drunk driving.   The Law forces those persons convicted of DUI in certain counties to install an Ignition Interlock Device in “any vehicle they own and operate,” for specified periods of time.  This means if you own several cars and intend to drive them, you must install the Ignition Interlock Device in each vehicle.

Assembly Bill 91 directly impacts those drivers in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare County who are convicted of DUI (even for a 1st time offense), and is scheduled to expire on January 1, 2016.  At that time, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will report to the State Legislature how effective the Ignition Interlock Device was in preventing repeat DUI offenses.  At that time, the Legislature will consider the possibility of making the IID laws permanent.

Because there are more than 200,000 arrests for DUI each year in California, this pilot program is expected to impact thousands of California drivers.

The term required for the Ignition Interlock Device in a driver’s vehicle is directly related to the number of prior DUI convictions that person may have.  Drivers may be required to maintain the Ignition Interlock Device in their car for the following periods of time:

  • First DUI Offenders–                  Ignition Interlock for 5 months.
  • Second DUI Offenders–              Ignition Interlock for 12 months.
  • Third DUI Offenders–                 Ignition Interlock for 24 months.
  • Fourth DUI Offenders–               Ignition Interlock for 36 months.

Currently, California Law only mandates installation and maintenance of the Ignition Interlock Device for convictions occurring in the listed pilot counties.  The Law, however, does grant judges broad powers to order the installation of the Ignition Interlock Device at their discretion.  In “non-pilot” counties, the Law does not mandate the Ignition Interlock Device but Judges will frequently require the Ignition Interlock Device for first offenders when the blood alcohol concentration exceeds .15%.

Law No. 2:      Assembly Bill 598 now makes it possible for certain repeat offenders to gain “restricted” driving privileges following a specified period of suspension.  In years past, a repeat offender could expect to have their driving privilege suspended or revoked for one, two, or three years without the ability to upgrade to a “restricted” driving privilege.

As of July 1, 2010, certain repeat offenders can regain “restricted” driving privileges after a shorter period of suspension or revocation, if they meet certain criteria.  For example, a person convicted of a second DUI in California within 10 years of the first offense may now become eligible for upgrade to a “restricted” license after completing just 90 days of the one year suspension period.  To qualify for the restricted license, the driver must:

  • Serve 90 days of complete suspension following the court conviction (Not the DMV imposed suspension).
  • Provide proof of enrollment or partial completion of an 18 or 30 month DUI School.
  • Provide proof of insurance through an appropriate SR-22 Form.
  • Provide proof of installation and maintenance of an Ignition Interlock Device.
  • Provide payment of applicable fees to the DMV

The law regarding the Ignition Interlock Device can be confusing and contradictory.  If you have any questions, call California Drivers Advocates.  We can help.

What Reasons Would I Have for Installing an Ignition Interlock Device?

There are essentially four reasons that a driver may be forced, or elect to, install an Ignition Interlock Device in their vehicles:

  • Court Order:  As a condition of probation or as a requirement for licensing as ordered by a court following a conviction for DUI.  This means you have been ordered by a judge to install the Ignition Interlock Device.
  • Voluntary Installation 1:  A driver voluntarily elects to install an Ignition Interlock Device in their own vehicle as a means of keeping them honest.  Some members of our society struggle every day with alcohol addiction and sometimes those same people will voluntarily install an Ignition Interlock Device in their vehicles to keep them off the road during a moment of weakness.
  • Voluntary Installation 2:  A leading cause for voluntary installation of the Ignition Interlock Device are parents who allow young drivers to operate their vehicle.  Peer pressure, easy access to alcohol, and lack of experience behind the wheel make youthful drivers some of the most dangerous people on the road when drinking.  Many parents are opting to voluntarily install an Ignition Interlock Device in their vehicles to prevent their children and friends from drinking and driving.
  • Voluntary Installation 4:  Finally, employers are increasingly concerned about their employees driving company vehicles while impaired.  By installing an Ignition Interlock Device in their company vehicles, employers demonstrate their concern for the safety of their employees and the public in general.

What Can Cause a Violation of the Ignition Interlock Device Program?

Once a California driver has installed an Ignition Interlock Device in their vehicle, they have to follow some very basic rules or risk having their driving privilege re-suspended or revoked.  Also, an Ignition Interlock Device violation can cause a Judge to determine that you have violated the terms of probation and you could be jailed.

There are classically four areas that cause drivers to have a violation of the Ignition Interlock Device:

  • Tampering with the Ignition Interlock Device:  This is a huge “no no.”  Any attempt to disconnect, manipulate or bypass the Ignition Interlock Device automatically registers a violation with the service agency.  The service agency is mandated by law to report the violation to the court and the California DMV.  This will automatically result in the driver’s privilege to use the Ignition Interlock Device being revoked.  This is not good.  Never tamper with the Ignition Interlock Device.
  • Failing or Missing a Rolling Re-Test:  Each and every time a driver starts the engine of a vehicle equipped with an Ignition Interlock Device, he or she must first provide a breath sample that is free of alcohol.

Once the engine starts, the Ignition Interlock Device will require periodic “re-tests” to ensure that the driver remains alcohol free.  Missing or failing a “retest” twice in one reporting period will result in a violation.

  • Blowing .05% or Higher:   Attempting to start the subject vehicle or performing a rolling re-test with a blood alcohol concentration of .05 or greater when blowing into the Ignition Interlock Device is an automatic violation.  This will cause the Ignition Interlock Device to “lock-out” the ignition and the vehicle will not start.  When this happens, the violator must report the violation to the service agency within 48 hours.  If the violator fails to report the violation, the service agency is mandated to tow the subject vehicle to its garage (at the violator’s expense).  A violation of this nature may also cause the complete revocation of the person’s driver license for a period of 10 years.
  • Failure to Keep Monthly Service Appointments or to Pay Fees:  During the period the Ignition Interlock Device is in a driver’s car, that person must attend regular service appointments at the service agency’s garage for calibration and maintenance of the Ignition Interlock Device.  Failure to attend these service appointments or failure to pay the monthly service fee required to the service agency will result in a violation.
 We’re here to assist you in locating an Ignition Interlock Device Provider

For many years, California Drivers Advocates has been in the business of assisting California drivers through the confusion of dealing with the DMV and the California Ignition Interlock Device Laws.  If you find yourself needing advice and guidance on selecting a quality and affordable Ignition Interlock Device Provider, call us.  We can help!!

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