Beginning July 1, 2012, any person convicted of DUI in Virginia must have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle in order to be eligible for a restricted driver’s license. Prior to recent changes in the law, an ignition interlock device was only required for convicted, first-time drunk driving offenders with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent or higher and for all second and subsequent offenders. The legal driving limit is 0.08.
An ignition interlock system is similar to a breathalyzer but it is installed in a motor vehicle. The person operating the motor vehicle must blow into the device prior to starting it. If the interlock system detects alcohol content above a 0.02, the device will prevent the motor vehicle from starting. The device then asks for a reading every 20 to 30 minutes while the car is being driven in what is known as the “rolling test.” This is to ensure that the driver has not started drinking after turning on the vehicle. If a person fails the “rolling test,” the vehicle’s horn and lights will activate until the driver shuts off the car. Violations are reported to the driver’s VASAP Case Manager when the device is calibrated every month.
In Virginia, a person convicted of drunk driving can choose from four state-approved companies to install the ignition interlock device. These four companies have locations all across the Commonwealth. At the moment, none of them are charging an installation fee, but all four charge approximately $60 every month to monitor the system. By law, these companies are allowed to charge a maximum of $80 a month in monitoring fees.
Bart Chucker, a former partner of the firm, recently estimated in a Richmond-Times Dispatch article that more than 15,000 first-time DUI offenders will be affected by the ignition interlock system by the end of the year. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, 28,162 people were convicted of DUI in the state in 2011.
Persons convicted of a first offense DUI must have an interlock device installed in any motor vehicle driven as a condition of receiving a restricted license. This requirement is limited to motor vehicles driven by that person. A court may allow that person to drive a motor vehicle without an ignition interlock device if that person has to drive a vehicle during work hours as a condition of their employment. This limited exception does not apply if the person has an ownership interest in the business.
The ignition interlock requirements differ for persons convicted of second offense DUI. Persons convicted of second offense DUI must have an ignition interlock device installed in every motor vehicle owned or registered to that person. As a result, it may be wise for that person to own one motor vehicle at the time of their conviction. This will save that person the expense of installing the ignition interlock device on multiple vehicles.
Those convicted of driving under the influence will now be paying more money out of pocket as a result of the new ignition interlock requirement, making it more important than ever to seek quality legal representation if you’ve been charged with driving under the influence in Virginia.