What is an Ignition Interlock Device and why do I need one?
Established as a highway safety initiative in 1989, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV) created the State of North Carolina Ignition Interlock Program. The objective of the Program is to hold drivers convicted of DWI accountable and to promote public safety. However, the program seems to have been turned on its head. It has become much more of a method of putting restrictions on people who are otherwise safe to our community. The device is a safety device and not a measuring instrument, but the Division of Motor vehicles has begun to consider it an instrument to prove alcohol consumption. That is not what it was designed for, and not its function.
How does an Ignition Interlock Device work?
An ignition interlock is a device that prevents a vehicle from starting if it detects a multitude of different substances in the person’s breath. While it is intended to prevent the car from operating if the person has been drinking, the device cannot discern contaminates from alcohol consumption. The device works similar to a breathalyzer, but it does not have an infrared sensor to distinguish contaminants from actual alcohol consumptions so it is riddled with false positives.
Many people, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles hearing officers included, believe that the device measures the amount of alcohol on the driver’s breath, then the interlock temporarily locks the vehicle’s ignition. The problem is that it is not an accurate measuring device, and was never designed to be one. It is a safety device that gives false positives, but therefore “protects” our roads. It is not a measuring instrument and is not accurate.
Who does this law apply to?
There are two fundamentally different ways that you may be required to install an ignition interlock. The most common reason for an Interlock is when a person is placed under an Alcohol Content Restriction (ACR) after blowing .15 or higher (or blood results) in a DWI conviction. In many cases, the limited driving privilege will be granted; however, you may also be required to install an ignition interlock device even if you do not get limited driving privileges for the first year and wait out the suspension.
The second fundamental way you could be required to install an ignition interlock is when you receive a Conditional Restoration of your driving privilege after multiple DWIs. This Conditional Restoration is a type of probation and has different restrictions, protocols, violation rules, and appeal procedures than the ACR. Too many attorneys who otherwise are good DWI lawyers, do not fundamentally understand this area of administrative law and procedure. Make certain that your attorney is well versed in the actual subtle differences prior to hiring them.
Interlock devices are required for drivers
- Who blow over .15 during a DWI arrest
- Under conditional license restoration following suspension.
- Whose commercial license has been revoked
Although North Carolina does not make the ignition interlock device mandatory in every DWI case yet, it is important for people to take it seriously. North Carolina is serious about keeping our roads safe, and the state is likely to make it mandatory for every DWI like 14 other states already have.
What’s the benefit of an Ignition Interlock Device?
The benefit of the device is that it gives a driver a chance to drive when they are safe to drive, and thus, remain productive members of our community. Because North Carolina does not have an adequate public transit system, being able to drive is almost mandatory to be able to maintain a job. Even with the costs and inconvenience of using an Ignition Interlock, it can be a huge benefit in maintaining employment. The bad side is the devices are unreliable and are prone to false positives caused by mouth contaminants.
What happens if I fail an Ignition Interlock test?
If a failed test occurs, the vehicle will not start and the providers are required to send notice of the failed tests to the DMV. The DMV then will issue a Notice of Suspension to the driver with an effective date on it. The suspension date is normally 10 days from the time the notice is mailed from the DMV. A hearing is allowed but MUST be requested in writing and postmarked prior to the day the suspension is set to begin.
Do I need at attorney for this Interlock Violation Hearing?
It is not required, but going in without an experienced Ignition Interlock Attorney is foolish. You will not be notified of what violation the DMV is alleging, you will not have logs prepared, you will be ambushed with whatever the DMV hearing Officer chooses to ask about any dates. You need an experienced Ignition Interlock Attorney.
Where do I get an Ignition Interlock Device and which company should I use?
There are three Interlock providers in North Carolina, they are:
Monitech, Inc.: 1-800-521-4246
Monitech is a North Carolina company that pioneered the interlock use here in North Carolina. Mr. Dummit has been doing hearings involving Monitech employees and logs for more than a decade. Our Firm’s experience has been fairly positive with Monitech, and they have more recently been getting better, more up-to-date equipment. They are still slow to get us the records we need to represent you in any violation hearing.
Smart Start, Inc.: 1-800-880-3394
Smart Start is a national company that started providing interlock services in North Carolina a few years back. They provide a strong network and infrastructure, and they have been very responsive to our attorney’s requests for logs and statements about the device when we fight violation hearings. We prefer to get the logs via email and digitally so that our team can sort and evaluate the history of the logs efficiently.
Alcolock NC, Inc.: 1-855-664-0353
This is a new provider in North Carolina.
How expensive is an Interlock Device?
The offender must pay all costs associated with the ignition interlock. The cost varies by state, but MADD estimates it costs approximately $70 to $150 to install and around $60 to $80 per month for device monitoring and calibration.
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