California’s use of ignition interlock devices

Drivers who have been arrested for suspected drunk driving for the first time in California may soon be required to use an ignition interlock device.

California residents know that the state has strict laws surrounding drunk driving. While penalties have been created with good reason in order to help keep people safe, they, nonetheless, can have serious and long-lasting effects on drivers. Recent efforts have been underway to increase these consequences even more, especially with regard to the required use of ignition interlock devices (IID) on a first offense DUI.

What is an ignition interlock device?

An IID is a alcohol breath testing mechanism that is installed in a vehicle which prevents the vehicle from starting until a breath test is taken and shows no measurable amount of alcohol in the driver's system. Across the nation, more than half of all states now require the use of IIDs by people convicted of first-time drunk driving offenses. Maryland was the most recent state to enact such legislation.

Who must use an IID in California?

According to the California Vehicle Code, a person convicted of a first offense DUI offense may be ordered to install and use an IID, but it is not yet mandatory. Mandatory IID's vary from County to County and IID policy can even vary from Courthouse to Courthouse within a County. Some people may be more likely to be required to use an IID than others on a first DUI offense where it may be optional. These include drivers who did not submit to breath or blood testing when requested by law enforcement officers or who recorded blood alcohol levels 0.15 percent or more.

Will IID laws in California change?

Along with five other states, California may soon require any driver convicted of a first drunk driving charge to install an ignition interlock device. The San Mateo Patch reports that in some California counties, any driver convicted of a DUI must use an IID now. A bill introduced by a senator from Northern California is making its way through the state legislature. If passed, it would extend the mandatory use of IIDs to all counties in the state.

Are driving privileges lost after a DUI arrest?

Anyone arrested for a first DUI may have their right to drive suspended administratively by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for some period of time even before conviction depending on their blood alcohol level, age, prior record or if they refused a chemical test. After an arrest, drivers may be given a pink sheet "Administrative Per Se Suspension/Revocation Order and Temporary Driver License" for a 30-day period until a 4 month or greater suspension begins depending on blood alcohol level, age, prior record or refusal.

Individuals can request a hearing to challenge the suspension by contacting the DMV within 10 days of the arrest and that will prevent this suspension from taking effect until after the hearing, failure to contact the DMV within 10 days waives the right to the hearing. A restricted license for a DMV suspension may be available after 30 days or longer depending on the suspension.

There is an additional suspension if there is an actual conviction for a DUI. First offenders licenses are suspended for six months (or a year if under 21) but individuals are generally eligible for a restricted license for this suspension also. A Second DUI conviction within a 10-year period will result in the loss of driving privileges for 12 months or more but may, in many cases, allow a restricted license sooner.

Legal help after a DUI arrest is important

In addition to license suspensions and the use of IIDs, drivers may face other criminal penalties like jail, fines, and probation if convicted of drunk driving. With such serious consequences including the requirement to contact DMV within 10 days of your arrest to try to challenge the administrative suspension based on blood alcohol, it is important for anyone arrested on DUI charges to contact a lawyer as soon as possible even though the Court date may not be for 30 days or more.