What is an Ignition Interlock Device?

An ignition interlock device is a gadget, a little bigger larger than a cell phone, that is wired to your car’s ignition. Driver’s are required to blow into the device before starting the engine, and there are systematic rolling checks while the engine is on. All systems are leased for approximately $1,000 per system. According to the current law, people convicted of a second or subsequent offense of DUI in PA are required to have an Ignition Interlock System installed in their vehicle for one-year immediately following their one-year license suspension. It should be noted that there is a big national push (PA included) that the interlock industry who profits immensely from these laws wants interlock even on first time ARD people. It is my predicition that within 1 year it will be among us.

1. Start-Up: To start their vehicles, drivers are required to blow into the device. If it detects “alcohol” at .025 percent Breath Alcohol Concentration (BrAC), the device will prevent the vehicle from starting; and will enter into lockout for five minutes. If after the 2nd breath test, the driver’s BrAC is still above .025, the next few lockout periods will be for 30 minutes each.

2. Rolling Retest Feature: In order to prevent someone from drinking and then having a sober person breathe into the device to start the car, the driver is forced to periodically provide breath samples as the driver drives. While driving, if the driver is unable to provide a clean breath sample, the device will log the event, warn the driver, start an alarm with lights flashing and horn honking, until the car is turned off or a clean breath sample is provided. It will not simply shut off the engine, as is the common misconception, because this would cause an unsafe driving situation.

3. Early Recall: A violation that requires the driver of the vehicle to return the vehicle to an ignition interlock installation service center for unscheduled service includes:

A. Three Breath Alcohol Concentrations over .025

B. One rolling retest violation

C. One event of tampering with the ignition interlock device

When the early recall is initiated, the driver will have 5 days to report to a service center with an additional 5 day grace period. If the grace period is exceeded, the vehicle will enter into a permanent lockout condition resulting in the vehicle being towed to the installation service center. The service provider may report it to the Adult Probation and Parole Office of the county. If the driver is still under probation or parole supervision, it could form the basis for a revocation and potential re-sentencing.

4. Monitoring: Program participants are scheduled to report for monitoring after the first 30 days and thereafter every 60 days.  Here the vehicle is checked for tampering, re-calibrated, and the device data log – which records all activity –  is reviewed. The service provider may report it to the Adult Probation and Parole Office of the county. If the driver is still under probation or parole supervision, it could form the basis for a revocation and potential re-sentencing.

05What Are The Penalties Involved With Ignition Interlock?

A driver found operating a motor vehicle without an ignition interlock when he or she is ordered to only drive with an interlock enabled car will be arrested. If the driver is found to have no ethanol in his or her system and if the person is convicted, then it is an ungraded misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of up to 90 days in prison and shall be sentenced to pay a fine of not less than $300 and not more than $1,000. If the driver is found to have a BAC of 0.025% at the time of testing or who has in his blood any amount of a Schedule I or non-prescribed Schedule II or III controlled substance, or its metabolite commits a misdemeanor of the third degree with a maximum sentence of not greater than one year, but a mandatory minimum jail time of 90 days. In addition, the convicted person shall be sentenced to pay a fine of $1,000.

Problems with Interlock

Interlocks can misread a slice of pizza, bread, or certain non-ethanol containing drinks as an alcoholic beverage. Nail polish remover, hand sanitizing liquid, mouth wash and even plain white bread can cause a false positive.  The device has even blocked out drivers for a number of DAYS after a positive test.

Mandatory interlock devices are a very heavy penalty for a first time offender. Interlock laws, while perhaps noble in concept, are simply not effective. Please read my prior post to why these devices as the law in Pennsylvania is currently implemented are in reality not the solution:

Are Interlock Devices the Answer?

PA DUI attorney Justin J. McShane is the President/CEO of The McShane Firm, LLC - Pennsylvania's top criminal law and DUI law firm. He is the highest rated DUI attorney in PA as rated by Avvo.com. Justin McShane is a double Board certified attorney. He is the first and so far the only Pennsylvania attorney to achieve American Bar Association recognized board certification in DUI defense from the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. He is also a Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Approved Agency.

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