Affiliate Disclosure

Content on Jalopnik Advisor is commercial in nature and independent of Jalopnik Editorial and Advertising. Jalopnik Advisor content is free to consumers and always will be, however we and our partners may be compensated if you purchase a product or service through the links on this website.

Your state may require an ignition interlock device after a DUI conviction, even if it’s your first offense. Car interlock devices improve public safety and offer offenders independence with a limited license. Here is an overview of interlock devices and the laws surrounding them.

Arrested for a DUI?

Let a DUI lawyer stop the suspension of your driver’s license.

What Is An Interlock Device?

An ignition interlock device, or IID, is a device that keeps a car from starting if the driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) over a set limit. A driver with an IID must breathe into the device before starting their vehicle. It works by connecting a breath alcohol sensor to a control unit in the engine compartment.

The device is tamper-proof, and it logs test results and driver compliance. Depending on the seriousness of the offense, the device will require one test at the start of the drive or continuing tests throughout the drive to ensure sobriety. In that latter case, the driver must pull over every 10 to 15 minutes to submit a breath sample.

Do All States Have Ignition Interlock Device Laws?

All states have laws concerning IIDs. Thirty states require all DUI or DWI offenders to install IIDs, even if it’s their first offense.

Eight states, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina, require IIDs for offenders who blew between .1 and .17 in their breath test at arrest. Seven states, California, Indiana, Nevada, North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, do not require IIDs but give judges discretion to require them for offenders.

IID laws are similar between states, and they may:

  • Offer IIDs as an alternative to license suspension or jail time
  • Require IIDs for specific periods, e.g., six months for a first-time offender, 12 months for a second offense, and 36 months for a third offense
  • Limit the driver to vehicles with IIDs, including employment vehicles

States may vary in severity. For example, New Mexico requires first offenders to keep an IID for one year; if there is a fourth offense, the driver must use an IID for life. But if a driver complies with their sentencing requirements and remains sober, they can apply to the DMV to remove the device.

What If I Can’t Afford An IID?

If your income ranges from 100 to 150 percent of the federal poverty level, you may qualify for assistance in these states:

If your state doesn’t offer a financial assistance program, ask your IID vendor if they have a program or offer discounts.

Can An Attorney Help Me If I’m Stuck With An IID?

Courts consider IIDs a privilege since installing one keeps you from facing a lengthy license suspension. Your only alternative to an IID, especially in a state that requires it, is license suspension.

However, some states allow limited exemptions. These exemptions will allow you to bypass installing an IID, but you can’t drive during your suspension period.

Medical Exemption

The medical exemption applies to drivers with decreased lung capacity due to cancer, emphysema, COPD, and other conditions. You must complete an application and provide medical records to receive this exemption. For example, Washington State offers this application for a medical exemption.

Employer Exemption

The employer exemption applies to company vehicles. It only applies to your company car during work hours, and you must carry authorizing paperwork as you drive. You don’t have to install an IID on your work vehicle if the DMV grants it.

Your employer must also approve of this exemption. They must sign a form indicating they are aware of your DUI conviction and suspension and still permit you to drive a company car. California may approve this exemption if the employer completes this form.

Hardship Exemption

Only a few states authorize the hardship exemption: Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.

To receive this exemption, you must show you don’t own a car and therefore don’t need to comply with the IID requirement. You must also be receiving public assistance through a federal program like TANF or SNAP. Comparable state programs, like rent assistance and unemployment benefits, may also help you qualify for the hardship exemption.

However, if you purchase a car in the future or find one to borrow, the exemption no longer applies. You must install an IID on any new or borrowed vehicles as soon as possible or face further penalties.

Can My Sober Friend Blow Into My IID To Start My Car?

No! Having your friend blow into your device is considered tampering. Other acts that fall into this category include:

  • Disconnecting wires on the IID
  • Blowing alcohol-free air into the device with a balloon
  • Blowing through a filter
  • Eating mints or chewing gum

IID technology has evolved significantly over the last 20 years. It can tell the difference between your breath and manufactured air. Some devices have cameras or alarms that detect sabotage. Since the devices collect data, the court can request that at any time and check your compliance.

Penalties for tampering with an IID include jail time, fines, removal of the IID, and vehicle impoundment. The court may also extend your license suspension and deem you ineligible for IIDs in the future.

Required To Install An Ignition Interlock Device?

An ignition interlock device can be embarrassing and inconvenient, but it may be the only way to get you back on the road. Start with a free DUI or DWI case evaluation from a local lawyer to see if you qualify for an IID or an exemption.

Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

Arrested for a DUI?

Let a DUI lawyer stop the suspension of your driver’s license.

Get a Free Evaluation