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Mandatory Ignition Interlock on all DUI/DWI Convictions.

The Virginia legislature just passed an amendment [HB 279] to the Virginia DUI laws that will make it mandatory for all driver’s convicted of DUI to have ignition interlock installed in their car in order to get a restricted licenses.This means that a judge MUST order the device installed even if the judge believes it is unnecessary.

Ignition interlock is a small breathalyzer machine that is installed in a driver’s car. In order to turn on the car the driver must blow into the machine. In order to keep the car running the driver must continue to blow once every 20 minutes or so. The device will trigger an alarm if the driver blows over a .02 BAC. Then the car will not start (or turn off) and the driver’s probation officer will be electronically notified of the violation resulting in additional jail time in most cases.

Ignition interlock breathalyzer devices are relatively cheaper and less accurate than police breathalyzers. Ignition interlock will trigger the alarm in some cases where the driver is sober but used alcohol based mouth wash, is diabetic, or even consumed certain foods or over the counter medicines.

This requirement will add another major financial burden to drivers who are convicted of DUI or DWI. Ignition interlock costs approximately $115 a month to lease and maintain. This law alone will double the costs of conviction for most first time offenders.

This law is particularly harsh (and absurd) because it requires ignition interlock for all DUI convictions, not just alcohol related offenses. So a person who gets DUI for drugs, pills, medication, ect. must have an ignition interlock in their car even if their conviction has nothing to do with alcohol.

Driver who cannot afford ignition interlock will not be able to drive. This will cause many poorer driver’s to lose their right to drive and thus their job. Driver’s in rural areas with no public transportation will not be able to drive to medical treatment, child visitation, alcohol treatment programs, or their jobs without paying about $1,500 in ignition interlock fees in addition to the approximately $1000 dollars of fines, court fees, and ASAP fees required by law.

Driver’s who are convicted of DUI are required by law to go to ASAP alcohol programs once a week, but if they cannot afford an ignition interlock they cannot drive and are still required to appear at the programs even if they live in a rural areas with no public transportation.

These amendments will make the breathalyser companies millions of dollars but will financially ruin many drivers who have never been in trouble with the law, are not alcoholics, and will never make this same mistake twice.

Currently, the law allows judges to order ignition interlock in first time DUI cases, but does not make is mandatory. Currently Virginia judges, after hearing all the facts and finding a person guilty of first time DUI, order ignition interlock in less than 10% of the first time DUI cases. This means that the legislature will be forcing judges to order an expensive device that the judge believe is unnecessary in 90% of the time.

I believe that the Virginian legislature has allowed lobbyists and blind zeal to trample those poor who make the mistake of driving while under the influence.

Luke J. Nichols

About Luke Nichols

Luke Nichols practices almost exclusively traffic law in Northern Virginia. His primary practice areas include reckless driving, speeding, DUI/DWI, refusal, hit-and-run, driving on a suspended license, and driving on a revoked license. Mr. Nichols has represented hundreds of Virginia drivers. You can also connect with Luke on Google+
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