Ignition Interlock Devices: How Do They Work?
An ignition interlock device (IID) is connected to the ignition system of the car to prevent the vehicle from operating if the driver blows into the device with a blood alcohol content (BAC) greater than the preset base limit. The device also records failed tests and attempts to tamper with the device, which is later reported to the courts.
The breathalyzer was first developed in the 1950s by a Captain with the Indiana State Police, which uses chemical oxidation and photometry to test alcohol concentrations in an individual’s breath. Since that time, technology has improved testing accuracy and made devices smaller and more transportable. By the 1990s, interlock devices were more reliable and required less frequent calibration. Now, all states use IIDs as a potential sentencing alternative for drivers convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.
When a judge imposes an IID requirement on a driver convicted of a DUI, they must make an appointment to have the device installed in their vehicle or vehicles. The device will be mounted in the vehicle, connected to the ignition and electrical system, and have the breathing device within hands reach of the driver. The driver will have to pay for the cost of installation, which may be $100 or so. Installation usually takes about an hour.
Before the car can be started, the driver will have to blow into the device a full breath of air, amounting to about a liter and a half of air. Most IIDs use fuel cell technology to determine the level of alcohol in the lungs. This is measured as a percentage of the blood/alcohol concentration, or BAC. If the breath tests at over the preset limit, typically 0.01% BAC, then the IID will not allow the vehicle to start. This means that a driver who only had half a glass of light beer may test over the limit and their vehicle will not start.
After the car starts, and the driver is driving down the road, the IID may require “rolling tests.” As often as every five minutes, the IID may signal time for the driver to blow a clean breath. The driver can usually blow the breath while driving, or they may choose to pull over before blowing into the device. If the IID does not get a clean breath while the car is driving, the failed test will be recorded, and the IID may signal an alarm, until the car is shut off.
Trying to Trick an IID
Many people try to trick the IID, but as people develop ways to bypass the tests, the IIDs have evolved to thwart these tricks. Some IIDs have cameras to make sure the driver is the one blowing the breath, and not a friend or other passenger. Others require the driver to hum into the device, or inhale into the mouthpiece, to prevent the driver using a balloon to give a “clean breath.”
Some drivers simply try to borrow someone else’s vehicle that is not equipped with an IID, so they can drive even if they are over the limit. However, California has laws against trying to bypass the IID tests, tampering with the equipment, helping someone else to bypass the IID, or driving a vehicle outside the restricted limits of their driving privileges.
Current ignition interlock devices are complex in order to prevent a driver from bypassing or tampering with the IID. However, just because it is high tech does not mean it is always 100% accurate. Field breathalyzers and even breath testing devices at the police station use similar technologies, and just like IIDs, they can make mistakes. You need a DUI defense lawyer who understands how alcohol analyzers work, and what common things can falsely trigger a positive reading. You may stand a better chance than you realize to get your charges reduced or dismissed, to keep you license to drive.
When IID is ordered
When an IID is Ordered by the Court
There are a few situations where the judge will order an individual to install an ignition interlock device (IID). For drivers who are facing their second or third DUI, the judge will almost always order an IID. However, more and more often, first-time DUIs will also result in an IID. In four California counties, a pilot program is in place to require individuals with no DUI history to have an IID. Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento and Tulare counties all require first offense DUIs to have an IID installed. The pilot program is set to end in 2015; however, the state legislature may expand the program statewide, based on the results of the pilot program.
In other cases, the judge has some discretion whether to impose an IID for a driver. This may occur when the driver had a higher blood alcohol content (BAC), if the driver shows some history of substance abuse, or simply if the judge is in the mood to require an IID. If the court orders an interlock device, then the driver has to go through the process of getting an IID for their car, if they want to drive.
Installing and Using an IID
An IID requires the driver to give a clean breath before the car can start. With the device connected to the ignition system, the driver has to blow into the device, which will then analyze the air to determine whether there is any measurable amount of alcohol. If any alcohol above the baseline limit is detected, the device will register a failed alcohol breath test, and the car will not start.
Additionally, even after the car gets a clear breath to start up, the IID will require “rolling samples,” about every 5 to 15 minutes. It is important to understand that an IID will not only limit drunk driving, with an over the limit BAC (0.08% or higher), it will prevent driving with any measurable amount of alcohol above the preset limit. In most cases, a driver cannot even have one beer or one glass of wine with dinner, unless they plan on taking a taxi home.
After an IID is ordered by the court, the probationary terms may require installation by a certain date. The driver will have to take their car to an approved IID installer, leave their car for IID installation, which may take a couple of hours, and pay for the installation. Even after installation, the driver will have to pay the cost of an IID rental, and bring their car back in on a regular basis to be calibrated and maintained.
DUI Defense Lawyer
Before the court imposes an IID restricted license, you may have a good case to fight DUI charges and keep your license to drive. Each DUI case is different, and your California DUI defense lawyer will be able to identify the best strategy to win your case. If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI, your experienced California criminal defense lawyer will stand by your side so you don’t have to face the judge and prosecutor alone.
Negotiating a DUI Settlement
When it comes to criminal charges, it may seem strange that you can negotiate with the prosecutor to get a lesser charge, or have some charges dismissed, or seek better terms. The criminal court process is not strictly about innocence or guilt. Much of the process lies somewhere in between, where an individual may have technically violated the law, but they should not be treated as a criminal. This is where settlements come into play.
Many people are unaware that a criminal charge can be negotiated up or down in severity, sometimes from a felony to a misdemeanor. This is because so many violations are considered “wobblers” in California. Wobblers can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts and the situation. For example, someone with a long criminal history may be charged with a felony, whereas someone who is facing their first criminal charge may only be charged with a misdemeanor.
In the case of DUIs, there is an alternative option that may be even more confusing. Drivers who are arrested for a DUI may plead guilty to a crime that is something less than a DUI charge. Known as a “wet reckless,” Vehicle Code 23103.5 is a plea bargained violation that is generally treated less harshly than a traditional DUI. The strange part is that you can’t be charged with a wet reckless when arrested for driving under the influence, but you can plead guilty to a wet reckless. A wet reckless guilty plea is generally beneficial to a person facing a misdemeanor DUI charge, which carries a possible jail sentence, and a higher fine.
Do the Time Before You Are Convicted of the Crime
When you are looking to negotiate a better deal for your arrest, you need factors in your favor. For example, if someone has a number of prior DUI arrests and convictions, was driving on a suspended license, and had a BAC of double the legal limit, it will be hard for that person to negotiate with the prosecutor to get their charges reduced.
However, if a driver is arrested for their first DUI, is already enrolled in a DUI school, has communicated their remorse for violating the law, and has voluntarily installed an ignition interlock device (IID) in their car, then they have a lot of negotiating power with the prosecutor and the judge. Taking the proactive steps to show that you know a DUI is a serious charge, and that it is being taken seriously can go a long way show that the arrest is not being taken lightly. Your attorney will be able to advise you of the smartest steps to take.
A felony criminal conviction is worse than a misdemeanor conviction, and a DUI is worse than a wet reckless. If a judge was going to sentence you to DUI school and an IID restricted license, then by completing DUI school and installing an IID in your car before the trial, a judge may be much more likely to agree to a lesser charge, and save you from additional probation requirements, including higher fees and a longer suspended license. One of the easiest ways to do this is by installing an ignition interlock device on your car to show the judge that you are taking the arrest seriously, and will not be getting arrested a second time.
Your California DUI defense lawyer will be able to identify the best strategies to win your DUI case. If you have been charged with a DUI then your experienced California criminal defense lawyer will stand by your side so you don’t have to face the judge and prosecutor alone. A well-planned negotiation may mean the difference between jail time and your freedom.