Virginia DUI Attorney James E. Short Clarifies Details About Ignition Interlock Devices and Rules of Their Use

Virginia’s criminal approach to driving under the influence (DUI) involves the use of ignition interlock devices (IIDs). The courts order many people who are charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) to install IIDs in their vehicles. These devices prevent someone from driving their car when their blood alcohol content exceeds certain limits. Virginia’s laws outline specific requirements governing the installation and use of ignition interlock devices. Chesapeake lawyer James Short explains what DUI offenders need to know about these devices and how they may apply in their particular cases. 

Understanding How Ignition Interlock Devices Work

When someone is arrested for a DUI in Virginia and is subsequently convicted, the judge may order them to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. The device connects to the car’s ignition and functions as a breathalyzer. 

Similar to the equivalent roadside breathalyzer, the driver breathes into the mouthpiece of the ignition interlock device. If the calculated blood alcohol content (BAC) is below 0.02 percent, the driver may start their car. If their BAC exceeds this limit, the IID will prevent the driver from starting their car. They can try again after 5 to 15 minutes. The IID logs the results of every BAC test for documentation and later review.

Note that the 0.02 percent threshold for BAC on an ignition interlock device is well below the legal limit of 0.08 percent. Someone convicted of a DUI is placed under much stricter restrictions than the other drivers on Virginia’s roads and highways. The installation of an IID is one of the legal consequences of driving under the influence

Ignition Interlock Device Requirements for DUI Offenders

Along with other punishments and restrictions, Virginia courts may also require DUI offenders to have an IID for a defined period of time. Virginia law 24VAC35-60-80 defines the rules around ignition interlock device installation. 

Required Length of Time for an Ignition Interlock Device

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-270.1 outlines how long an ignition interlock device must remain installed in the vehicle. Six months is the minimum, but the judge may order the IID to remain in place for longer than that. Offenders with a high BAC or multiple DUI/DWI offenses may be ordered to keep the IID for up to 12 months.

Restricted Licenses for Select First-Time Offenders

Even with an ignition interlock device, first-time offenders may lose other driving privileges. They may not be allowed to drive for leisure or to run errands. The restricted driver’s license may only allow them to drive to and from work. They may have to disclose the DUI charge to their employer, as they may be unavailable to drive for other purposes. 

Senate Bill 439 (2020) loosened some of these restrictions. If it is the person’s first DUI offense and their BAC was below 0.15, they may be able to drive anywhere as long as the IID is in place for at least one full year. This new law came into effect on July 1, 2020. 

Required Rolling Retests While Driving

In addition to the initial BAC test before starting the car, people with an IID must also submit rolling retests at random intervals. The ignition interlock device will request a new breath sample every 20 to 30 minutes of driving. The driver then has up to five minutes to submit a passing sample. 

If they refuse to submit a breathalyzer sample or their test results show a BAC of over 0.02, they will not be able to continue driving. Audible alarms, honking horns, and flashing lights continue until they stop the car and turn it off. 

Penalties for Tampering With an Interlock System

Anyone who tampers or attempts to tamper with the IID may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. They may be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500 and revocation of the restricted license. A permanent criminal record can affect employment, housing, child custody, immigration, and more. 

Costs for Ignition Interlock Device Installation and Use

A person convicted of driving under the influence in Virginia is responsible for any costs involved with the court-mandated ignition interlock device. They must approach an authorized provider within 30 days of the court order to install the IID. 

Typical costs may include:

  • $120 for installation
  • $100 per month for calibration and maintenance

Over one year, this can add up to over $1,300, plus taxes, in out-of-pocket expenses. The installer may offer optional insurance for device theft and damage. This would be an additional cost to consider. DUI offenders must also enroll in a Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP) for $300 plus a $100 intervention fee. Other fees may also apply. 

Discuss Options and Rights With Your Virginia DUI Lawyer

Drinking and driving is a serious offense and needs to be taken seriously. Chesapeake DUI lawyer James Short can help you better understand your Virginia DUI charges, explaining possible consequences and what you need to know to comply. The ignition interlock device requirement is only one facet, but it can greatly impact your day-to-day life after a DUI conviction. 

Before you get to that point, it’s crucial to speak with a Virginia DUI defense attorney to formulate a powerful defense against these charges. We can explain your legal options, like agreeing to a remote alcohol monitoring device, so you can make a better-informed decision. Let us guide you on the road ahead.
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