What are Ignition Interlock Devices?

With advances in technology, the majority of states, including Washington, now allow judges to order an ignition interlock device (IID) to be used in some drunk driving cases. Washington also allows drivers serving a license suspension to obtain and Ignition Interlock Driver’s License (IIL). These devices prevent drivers from operating their vehicle if alcohol is detected on their breath and report suspected violations.

In Washington, your license can be suspended or revoked administratively and/or as a result of a conviction.

How do Ignition Interlock Devices Work?

When an IID is installed in a vehicle, its purpose is to test for and detect alcohol on the driver’s breath before the vehicle is started. If the device finds a blood alcohol content (BAC) above a certain percentage, it will prevent the vehicle from being started and note the failure in its log.

After a set period of time, typically referred to as the “lock-out period,” the driver is able to submit to a retest. The length of the lock-out period will vary depending on the blood alcohol content that was detected. Usually, with each failed attempt to start the vehicle due to a high enough BAC, the lock-out period will become longer.

Are There Tests After a Vehicle is Started?

Drivers are subject to retests even after they have successfully started their vehicle. These are commonly referred to as rolling retests. As a safety precaution, the vehicle will not automatically shut off if a driver does not provide a test within a certain timeframe. Instead, their vehicle may respond with an alarm or their horn may honk until the vehicle is shut off and a breath test provided.

Even with initial start tests and rolling retests, many drivers convicted of a DUI will agree to an IID in their vehicle, that is, if their state does not automatically require one. Often, an experienced DUI attorney will be able to negotiate the use of one in order to reinstate the offender’s license and restore driving privileges much sooner following a DUI conviction.

States with Mandatory Ignition Interlock Device Laws

Because IIDs are an effective drunk driving deterrent, many states are choosing to adopt mandatory laws that require these devices be installed in certain cases. For those states with such laws, IIDs are most commonly installed in cases involving:

  • Repeat offenders
  • High blood alcohol contents
  • Instances where children were present in the vehicle

Non-mandatory Use of Ignition Interlock Device Laws

Even in states without mandatory laws regarding the installation of IIDs, judges often can use their own discretion when deciding whether or not an offender should have one installed in their vehicle. Often, individuals convicted of a DUI will have their licenses suspended. In these cases, a judge could require an IID be installed for a portion of that time. This allows the offender to drive their vehicle as long as they are able to provide a clean breath test.

Before an offender is given the opportunity to drive with an IID in place, they will often have to complete some other portion of their sentence like finishing an alcohol treatment program or paying a fine.

The use of ignition interlock devices is becoming increasingly common in many states. Not only are they effective in keeping intoxicated drivers off the road, they allow individuals convicted of DUIs to more quickly restore their driving privileges following a DUI conviction.