An ignition interlock device (IID) is a machine that prevents you from starting your car if you have been drinking. It is a small breathalyzer that is installed in your vehicle. Before you start the car, you must blow into the device, and if it senses alcohol on your breath, the vehicle will not start.
California uses IIDs to reduce the number of repeat DUIs. The theory is that if a convicted drunk driver installs the device on their car, they are less likely to drink and drive again—because the car will not let them. Not all drunk drivers are required to install one, but many are.
IIDs are not convenient. If you are ordered to put one on your car, you will find that it is expensive, frustrating, and hard to explain to others. However, an IID will sometimes allow you to get your driver’s license back sooner.
How Does an Ignition Interlock Device Work?
An IID is the size of a large cell phone. A licensed IID installer must professionally install it. You will have to get proof that it was installed and give this proof to the DMV.
The IID requires multiple breath tests every time you drive:
- One breath test to start the car.
- Take a second breath test about 5-15 minutes after starting the car. This prevents you from having a sober friend blow into the device before you drive away.
- Additionally, random breath tests once every 45 minutes or so, for as long as you keep driving.
The device will alert you every time it requires a new test. You have about 6 minutes to take the test, or it will be a fail. This gives you time to pull over if needed.
IIDs Are Designed to Be Tamper-Proof
The device can sense attempts to tamper with the wiring or remove it. It reports these attempts to the court. Attempts to outsmart the IID result in countless suspended licenses every year.
Installing an IID will not harm your car. It can be removed once you are no longer required to have it.
How Much Does an Ignition Interlock Device Cost in California?
You can expect to pay $75-100 to install an IID, plus additional fees every time you need it calibrated. Calibration is required every 60 days.
Alternatively, some companies install the IID for free but charge higher rates for calibration. Either way, you will spend at least $75 between installation and the first recalibration. But there are other costs too:
- You must install a separate IID on every vehicle you own. The more cars you have, the more it will cost.
- You must pay the DMV an “IID Restriction Fee” of $15. There may also be administrative fees of $40.
Who Is Required to Install an Interlock Device in California?
There are many circumstances where you may end up installing an ignition interlock device after your DUI. Some of them are required, and others are optional. They include:
You Were Arrested in the Wrong County
If your DUI occurred in Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento, or Tulare counties, you would be required to get an IID no matter what. This is part of a state “pilot program” to test whether IIDs reduce DUI rates. In those counties, there are no exceptions—all DUIs require interlock devices.
The Judge Orders It
Judges have wide discretion in how they sentence you. They can order an IID in almost any drunk driving case. If it is your first DUI, the judge may not require one (except in the counties mentioned above).
However, a first-time DUI defendant with a blood alcohol level over 0.15% will probably be required to get an IID. The same is true if your DUI injured anyone. Repeat offenders are much more likely to be required to get an IID.
The DMV Requires It
The DMV can also require an IID. If your DUI occurred while you were driving on a suspended or revoked license, or did not have a license, you will be required to get an interlock device.
In addition, if you apply for restricted driving privileges, and this is your second DUI (or more), you will need an interlock device.
You Want to Shorten Your License Suspension
If this was your second or third DUI, you could shorten your license suspension period by voluntarily installing an IID. This is not an option for first offenders because the suspension period is already shorter for a first-time DUI.
You will not qualify for a shortened suspension if your DUI involves drugs.
How Long Do I Need an Interlock Device for a California DUI?
If you are required to install an interlock device, it will usually be for a period of:
- Five months for a first offense, or one year if the DUI injured someone
- One year for a second offense
- Two years for a third offense
- Three years for a fourth or subsequent offense
Getting Your Interlock Device in California
Here is the process for getting an ignition interlock device:
- Choose an IID installer. The DMV offers a list, and if you price shop, consider the long-term price (calibration fees) and the upfront installation cost.
- Verify that the installer is licensed to perform this work. You can look up their license online.
- Pay the installer and have IIDs installed on all your vehicles. This does not apply to motorcycles or employer-owned vehicles.
- Ask the installer for proof, and they should give you Form DL 920 (Verification of Installation form). Confirm that the form lists all the cars you brought in, not just one.
- Submit the documents to your local DMV office. If you are applying for driver’s license reinstatement or restricted driving privileges, you will need your Form SR 22 (proof of DUI auto insurance).
- If you have other license suspensions on your record, you will not be approved until you take care of those too.
How to Avoid an Ignition Interlock Device
With ignition interlock devices having such a profound impact on a defendant’s life, it is crucial to take steps to avoid one at all costs. Here are some of the top ways to avoid a DUI conviction and, thus, an ignition interlock device:
Enter a Pretrial Diversion Program
The best way to avoid an ignition interlock device is by entering a pretrial diversion program. The prosecutor might allow you to join one of these programs if no one was injured or killed due to your alleged drunk driving, which is a first-time offense. However, you must be prepared to follow the requirements of the program.
Otherwise, the prosecutor will likely proceed with the original DUI charges against you. If you fulfill the requirements of your pretrial diversion program, not only will you avoid an ignition interlock device, but you could get the charges against you dismissed entirely or reduced to a less severe offense.
Defend Yourself in Court
Another way to avoid an ignition interlock device is by defending yourself for trial. Ignition interlock devices are not mandatory in every DUI case. If you can clear your name of the allegations against you, you may not require an ignition interlock device.
Some of the potential defenses that could be a good fit for your DUI case include the following:
- Improper stop
- Mistake of fact
- Mistakes with a breathalyzer test
- Inaccuracies with blood alcohol concentration test results
- Illegal search and seizure
- Unlawful police stop
- Prosecutorial or police misconduct
Get Help from a Los Angeles DUI Attorney Today
The best way to avoid IIDs is never to be convicted of DUI. Talk to a DUI lawyer before your case goes any further. We can match you with a lawyer with the right experience for your case and get you a FREE consultation.
Just fill out our online contact form to the right and get your free consultation today.