If you are convicted of DUI in California, one of your penalties may include getting a breathalyzer device installed on your vehicle. This device forces you to test your breath for alcohol before the car will start. It’s meant to prevent you from drinking and driving again—and the costs of the device come out of your own pocket.
Here’s what you need to know about this device, including the prices involved.
How Ignition Interlock Devices (Car Breathalyzers) Work
Ignition interlock device (or IID) is the common name for car breathalyzers installed after a DUI conviction. These IIDs are small, cell-phone-sized breath instruments usually installed on the steering column of your car.
When the court orders you to have an IID installed, you must use an authorized installer and then provide the court with proof of installation. The court then notifies the DMV of the device so any police officers will know about it if you’re pulled over.
Here’s how IIDs work:
- IIDs require you to provide a breath sample in your car
- If that sample is free of alcohol, you’ll be able to start your vehicle
- If the device detects alcohol on your breath, the car won’t start
- After you start driving, the IID will request a random breath sample about 5-15 minutes later and 45 minutes after that. You’ll have six minutes to give the sample
If you fail the test while you’re driving, the instrument won’t stop your car—but it will record that you failed, and a report with all results gets sent to the court or the DMV. The device also keeps a record of all starts, stops, and any tampering with the breathalyzer.
An interlock device must be installed on every vehicle you drive or own (with the exception of employer-owned vehicles). Once it has been installed, you are required to get it serviced at least every two months to ensure it’s working properly.
And of course, you are the only person allowed to provide a breath sample. The cord won’t reach to the back or passenger seats, and it requires a certain breathing pattern. If anyone else provides a breath sample for you, it’s a crime. Non-compliance of any kind with the device can lead to license suspension or revocation.
The purpose of ignition interlock devices is to prevent drunk driving—now and in the future. According to the International Council on Alcohol, Drugs, and Traffic Safety, installed IIDs help reduce repeat DUI offenses by 40-95 percent when combined with a comprehensive service and monitoring program.
The Full Cost of an Ignition Interlock Device in California
Costs can vary based on your situation and provider, but the average in California is $70-$100 per month. The company that installs the device might also charge you for the actual installation, which can run from $75-$100. In addition, there may be ongoing fees when you take the device in for calibration and maintenance every 60 days.
If this is your first DUI offense and no one was injured, you might be ordered to have the IID installed for up to six months. For repeat offenses or first-time offense with injury, the install period ranges from 12 to 48 months.
Altogether, the cost can total anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on how long the device is installed, the provider you use, and features of the IID. This is on top of the other costs of getting a DUI in California. If you can’t afford the ongoing costs of the device, you might be able to apply for assistance and just pay a portion. That depends on the total family income.
Is Breathalyzer Installation Mandatory?
You may not have to use an IID for a first-offense DUI (although sometimes you will), but it’s mandatory for second DUI offense or greater within 10 years.
You may be ordered by a judge to get the instrument installed with a first offense DUI if you:
- Refused to submit to a blood or breath test
- Violated California Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC driving under the influence, particularly with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.015% or more
- Were driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license
If someone is injured as a result of your driving under the influence, you will definitely be ordered to have an IID installed on your vehicle.
You may be able to fight this penalty, however. A DUI defense attorney can look at your case and look for weak spots. In some cases, you may be able to avoid the IID installation and other penalties.
Talk to a DUI Defense Lawyer for Free Today
The installation of a breathalyzer ignition interlock device is just a portion of the total costs of getting a DUI. To possibly avoid these penalties, contact an experienced DUI defense attorney who can discuss alternative options with you. You might be able to get your charges reduced or, in some cases, dropped altogether. Call today for your FREE consultation with a leading California DUI lawyer.
Call (310) 896-2724, or fill out the form on this page to get started.