Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs): One Possible Consequence of a DUI Conviction

Breathalyzers that are wired to a car’s ignition and prevent a motorist from driving when breath alcohol is detected.

Year-after-year state legislatures try to find ways to curb drunk driving. In this search, an increasing number of states are imposing ignition interlock device (IID) requirements—or making existing IID laws stricter—for those convicted of driving under the influence (DUI). Basically, IIDs are breath-test devices that are installed in a vehicle, which prevent it from starting when the driver has a measurable breath alcohol concentration (BAC).

IID Basics

Breathalyzers—portable alcohol breath-test devices—have been around since the 1950s. The original versions, which employed “wet chemical techniques,” required police to carry around a collection of items resembling an amateur chemistry set. Eventually, scientists found ways to put modern technologies—fuel cell, semiconductor, and infrared sensors—to use in breathalyzers. These technological advancements, which resulted in more compact designs, made the creation of IIDs possible.

IIDs are essentially breathalyzers that attach to a car’s ignition system. A car that has an IID installed won’t start until someone blows into a tube with an alcohol-free breath. Most IIDs also require “rolling tests” every so often after the car is started. Typically, the IID will beep—indicating a rolling test is necessary—and the motorists has about five minutes to give a breath. If an IID detects alcohol on a rolling sample, it won’t shut the car off. But the device will record the positive result and likely notify the court or Department of Motor Vehicles.

State IID Laws

All 50 states have IID legislation. But IID laws aren’t all the same. There are laws that:

  • require IIDs for all offenders
  • require IIDs for only certain offenders, and
  • let judges choose, based on the circumstances, whether to order an IID.

When IIDs are required, it's typically up to the motorist to pay the costs. Cost normally include installation, removal, and monthly fees. Although expensive (installation and removal might cost $100 to $300 total and monthly fees can be $50 to $100), most people prefer paying the fees to have an IID rather than forgo driving.

Hardship Licenses

In many states, it’s possible for someone whose license has been suspended for a DUI to get a “hardship” license (also called a “Cinderella” or “restricted” license). Generally, hardships licenses allow the motorist—whose license is otherwise suspended—to drive to and from places like work, school, and medical appointments. Having an IID installed is a common prerequisite for obtaining a hardship license.

Talk to an Attorney

If you have specific questions about the IID or DUI laws in your state, it’s always best to talk to a local DUI attorney. The facts of each case are different. A qualified DUI lawyer can tell you how the law applies in your particular situation.

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