An Ignition Interlock Device is a breathalyzer connected to the ignition of a vehicle. If alcohol in any amount is detected, the IID prevents the vehicle from starting. IIDs require samples before and during the car ride, to ensure the driver has consumed no alcohol in the course of driving. If the device yields a positive reading, it logs this reading and the failure will be reported to the driver's probation officer. If the driver fails to provide a sample or tests positive in the course of a ride, the car may start an alarm (flashing lights, honking horn) until the ignition is shut off. Contrary to popular belief, the engine will not stop if the device detects alcohol while the vehicle is in motion. This would be counterproductive to the goals of an IID, as it would create unsafe driving conditions.
Ignition Interlock Devices as a Sentencing Alternative
Every state in the union has laws permitting ignition interlock devices as sentencing alternatives in DUI cases. The driver is responsible for the costs associated with the IID. They are usually rented out instead of purchased because they are only required for a set amount of time (which varies in duration depending on the circumstances of the offense). Normally, the driver will make an initial payment between $100 and $200 to the interlock provider, and then pay a monthly rental fee of about $70. There may be additional costs for maintenance or calibration, ranging $60-$80 monthly. The driver must also finance the installation of the device. They could incur additional fees if they have a newer vehicle whose manufacturer has not yet released wiring information for the vehicle. Bear in mind that some auto shops may refuse to install an IID in luxury or classic cars, for fear of damaging an expensive or rare vehicle. If you need to have an IID installed, be sure to call ahead and fully brief the auto shop on the year, make and model of your vehicle. The cost of installation averages $70-$150, depending on the vehicle. It should take about 2 hours to install.
The interlock device works by interrupting the signal from ignition to the starter until an acceptable breath sample is provided. The accuracy and reliability of IIDs have increased over the years, however, they are not infallible. Modern devices use ethanol-specific fuel cell sensors, which are sensitive not only to drinking alcohol but other types of it as well.
IIDs are imposed on drivers who have had a second DUI conviction within a 5-year span. They will be required to install the device for 12 months after a 4-month hard license suspension, during which they cannot drive at all. The driver will be eligible to apply for a limited permit after the device has been installed. However, their license is still considered suspended as the formal suspension period is 18 months. For the 2 remaining months, after the 12-month limited permit with an IID period, the driver may remove the IID and drive exclusively with their limited permit. Because the IID is financed by the driver themselves, the court may choose to waive the IID requirement in cases of financial hardship.
How an Ignition Interlock Works
If you have an IID installed, it is critical that you do not tamper with it. They are equipped with features to ensure they will not be tampered with or manipulated. Do not have someone else blow into the IID to start your vehicle, as most IIDs are equipped with cameras for this exact reason. Tampering with your device in any way could result in further criminal prosecution. (Fun Fact: In one recorded instance, the camera mounted on an IID was able to help officers identify a car thief.)
Records of the sensor results are printed out at 30, 60 or 90-day intervals typically, to be reviewed by authorities. During a DUI arrest, you are only at fault if your blood alcohol content was at or above the legal limit, .08. However, after a conviction and the installation of an IID, if the breathalyzer registers any amount of alcohol, meaning any amount of 0.00, this will be considered a failure - the vehicle will not start, alarms may sound if the vehicle is already in motion, and the interlock provider will forward the result to the driver's probation officer. DUI probationers are prohibited from consuming ANY alcohol whatsoever, so if the device registers the smallest amount - even those too small to cause impairment, this is considered a probation violation. There is a strong chance that additional sanctions will be imposed on the driver if the device registers a failure. It is critical to remember the probation officer has access to all recorded activity on the device and interlocked vehicle's electrical system. The officer may file to revoke all or part of the individual's probation. In some cases, a warrant may be issued for the probationer and they would be held in custody, pending a hearing. A person may wait up to 30 days in jail in certain Georgia counties. Bail is very rare in cases involving probation violations. Given the consequences, it is simply not worth it to consume alcohol if you are on probation. The risk is great and the punishment potentially severe.
Ignition Interlock False Positives
Be wary of the possibility of a false positive. Although rare, there have been recorded instances in which an IID reported a false positive. The device cannot tell the difference between isopropyl alcohol (found in hand sanitizers, hand wipes, soaps, mouthwash, and gels) and ethyl alcohol (the type in alcoholic beverages). Do not use these items prior to inputting a breath sample. Clearly, mouthwash is one of the biggest culprits for false positives on IIDs. They may also register false positives for people on ketogenic diets, or those have just eaten spicy or yeasty foods or used Chloraseptic spray. A good rule of thumb is to avoid consuming anything at all at least 20 minutes prior to blowing into an IID. Because the false positives are rare, the court may have a hard time believing this defense. This is why exceptional legal representation is critical.
If you are facing a DUI charge or a probation violation in Georgia, you will need exceptional legal representation to review your case and fight for you in court. Do not hesitate to contact Atlanta DUI Attorney Richard Lawson for a free consultation.