Ignition Interlock Device

Ignition interlock devices are becoming more and more common in New Jersey DWI cases, and can even be ordered by the courts to be installed in the motorist’s vehicle for first offenses.

The new interlock law was passed on January 13, 2010, and applies to all NJ DWI offenses occurring after January 14, 2010. On a New Jersey first offense DWI, if the reading is 0.15% blood alcohol or above, and on a New Jersey first offense Refusal conviction, installation of the interlock is mandatory for the seven month suspension period and for six to twelve months after the driver’s license is restored. If the reading is under 0.15%, the court can still order an interlock on a discretionary basis. For second and greater NJ DWI offense convictions, the interlock must be installed during the suspension period, and for one to three years after the driver’s license is restored, as ordered by the court.

Ignition interlock devices are breath-testing machines that attach to a vehicle’s steering column and prevent the car from starting if the driver has a certain amount of alcohol in his or her system. A New Jersey DWI attorney who concentrates on DUI / DWI defense can determine the likelihood of an ignition interlock device requirement in each individual case.

Ignition interlock devices are based on a simple principle – the vehicle will not run if the driver’s breath sample exceeds the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit programmed into the machine – in New Jersey, that limit is typically .05 percent BAC. The devices are designed to prevent a third party from starting the vehicle by blowing into the collection tube.

Once the vehicle is in motion, the driver must perform “rolling retests” every 15 minutes to one hour by blowing into the collection tube. If the rolling retests are not performed on time, the equipment will record a violation. The device also will record any attempts to tamper with it.

Any sentence including the requirement to install an ignition interlock begins after the driving privileges are restored.

New Jersey judges can sentence first-time New Jersey DWI / DUI offenders to use an ignition interlock device for six months to one year. The convicted driver is required to pay any costs associated with installing, leasing and maintaining the device.

A driver convicted of a second-offense NJ DWI / DUI faces the possibility of using an ignition interlock device for one to three years. Rather than compel the driver to install an ignition interlock, the court can alternatively order a two-year vehicle registration suspension. This means that the driver would not be permitted to have any vehicles registered in his or her name for that suspension period.

A third-time convicted drunk driver can also be ordered to use an ignition interlock device for one to three years, or alternatively be sentenced to a 10-year registration suspension.

The law or statute that addresses interlock devices is N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.16, which states:

The Legislature finds and declares:

a. This State's penalties for drunk driving, including the mandatory suspension of driver's licenses and counseling for offenders, are among the strongest in the nation. However, despite the severity of existing penalties, far too many persons who have been convicted under the drunk driving law continue to imperil the lives of their fellow citizens by driving while intoxicated.

b. Ignition interlock devices, which permit a motor vehicle to be started only when the driver is sober, offer a technically feasible and effective means of further reducing the incidence of drunk driving. The use of these devices was initiated in California in 1986 and, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, they are presently being used or tested in at least 37 states.

c. The judicious deployment of ignition interlock devices, as provided under this act, will enhance and strengthen this State's existing efforts to keep drunk drivers off the highways.

The statute that sets forth the penalties is N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.17:

a. (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, in sentencing a first offender under R.S.39:4-50, the court may order, in addition to any other penalty imposed by that section, the installation of an ignition interlock device in the motor vehicle principally operated by the offender following the expiration of the period of license suspension imposed under that section. In sentencing a first offender under section 2 of P.L.1981, c. 512 (C.39:4-50.4a), the court shall order, in addition to any other penalty imposed by that section, the installation of an ignition interlock device in the motor vehicle principally operated by the offender during and following the expiration of the period of license suspension imposed under that section. The device shall remain installed for not less than six months or more than one year, commencing immediately upon the return of the offender's driver's license after the required period of suspension has been served.

(2) If the first offender's blood alcohol concentration is 0.15 % or higher, the court shall order, in addition to any other penalty imposed under R.S.39:4-50, the installation of an ignition interlock device in the motor vehicle principally operated by the offender during and following the expiration of the period of license suspension imposed under that section. In addition to installation during the period of license suspension, the device shall remain installed for not less than six months or more than one year, commencing immediately upon the return of the offender's driver's license after the required period of suspension has been served.

b. In sentencing a second or subsequent offender under R.S.39:4-50 or section 2 of P.L.1981, c. 512 (C.39:4-50.4a), the court shall order, in addition to any other penalty imposed by that section, the installation of an ignition interlock device in the motor vehicle principally operated by the offender during and following the expiration of the period of license suspension imposed under R.S.39:4-50 or section 2 of P.L.1981, c. 512 (C.39:4-50.4a). In addition to installation during the period of license suspension, the device shall remain installed for not less than one year or more than three years, commencing immediately upon the return of the offender's driver's license after the required period of suspension has been served.

c. The court shall require that, for the duration of its order, an offender shall drive no vehicle other than one in which an interlock device has been installed pursuant to the order.

d. As used in this act, “ignition interlock device” or “device” means a blood alcohol equivalence measuring device which will prevent a motor vehicle from starting if the operator's blood alcohol content exceeds a predetermined level when the operator blows into the device.

e. The provisions of P.L.1999, c. 417 (C.39:4-50.16 et al.) and any amendments and supplements thereto shall be applicable only to violations of R.S.39:4-50 and section 2 of P.L.1981, c. 512 (C.39:4-50.4a).

Call Levow DWI Law, toll free, at 877-593-1717 to discuss ignition interlock issues, or anything else related to your New Jersey DWI / DUI arrest. You may also email us at evanlevow@newjerseydwilawyer.com.