What to Know About Ignition Interlock Devices

A male driver blowing into an ignition interlock system in his car - ignition interlock device concept

If you’ve been convicted of a DUI or your license was suspended due to a breath test over .08 or refusing a breath test, DOL will require you to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle if you want to continue to drive. This device can allow you to continue driving while you are under a DUI license suspension, which can be crucial if you need to get to work, take your children to school, and run errands. It’s essential to understand how an interlock ignition works — and the requirements that must be met during the time the device is installed in the vehicle.

What is an Interlock Ignition Device?

An interlock ignition device is an instrument that is installed in your vehicle and measures your blood alcohol content (BAC). Before you can start your vehicle, you must blow into the instrument. In the event your BAC is .025% or higher, the vehicle will not start. The interlock ignition device also includes a camera so that the identity of the individual blowing into it will also be recorded.

The breath testing machine is attached to the ignition wiring in your car by a Washington State Patrol certified installer. Upon installation, you are required to submit proof to the state, along with proof of SR-22 insurance when there was a license suspension or DUI conviction. These are the first steps in getting an Ignition Interlock License. Once the required documents and payment have been submitted, and the Washington Department of Licensing has approved your interlock ignition license application, you will be able to drive your vehicle — as long as it remains equipped with the device for the required amount of time. After a DUI conviction, if the interlock is removed without the Department of Licensing first receiving a “compliance declaration” from the interlock company, the requirement is extended.

When is an Interlock Ignition Device Required?

Whether it’s your first offense or you have multiple prior DUI convictions, the DOL will require you to install an interlock ignition device in your vehicle upon a DUI conviction. You cannot “sit out” this requirement. The device will record each time the car was started, the results of each test, how long the vehicle was operating, and the GPS location of the car when the sample was provided.

Under Washington law, an interlock ignition device is required under the following circumstances:

  • You have been convicted of a drug or alcohol related DUI
  • You have a Physical Control of a vehicle offense conviction
  • You have been convicted of a reckless or negligent driving, and there was a prior DUI offense within seven years
  • You have a conviction of operating a vehicle without an ignition interlock device installed

Importantly, you will be required to submit to a “rolling retest” within ten minutes of starting the car. Thereafter, rolling retests are automatically required at specified intervals. If a rolling retest shows alcohol in excess of the set limit, the interlock will honk the vehicle's horn and flash the lights as a means of notifying the police that the driver is in violation of the interlock — the only way to stop this is to turn the car off or submit a breath sample under the set BAC limit. The device will record any evidence of tampering.

Your vehicle must be presented for inspection at least every sixty days (or more frequently if the court requires) so that the interlock can be inspected for tampering. The vehicle memory must also be downloaded and in most cases, it is reported to the court. A record is kept of the odometer reading at each inspection.

How Long is an Interlock Ignition Device Required?

The amount of time you are required to keep an interlock ignition device installed in your vehicle will depend upon your record. In extreme cases, an ignition interlock device may be required for up to ten years. However, for a first offense DUI, an individual will be required to have it installed for one year.

Specifically, Washington law sets forth the following schedule regarding length of time the interlock ignition device must be installed:

  • No prior DUI convictions — a period of one year
  • A second DUI — a period of five years
  • A third of subsequent DUI — a period of ten years

The ignition interlock device was initially used in Washington State only in cases involving high (over .15%) breath test results and those involving prior convictions. However, recent history has seen a change in this philosophy and there is currently no distinction between a repeat offender and the person who made a one-time mistake so far as the ignition interlock requirement is concerned. If you have been convicted of a DUI, you must obtain an interlock license to legally operate your vehicle.

Contact a Skilled Washington DUI Attorney

A DUI arrest can have life-altering consequences. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, it’s best to have an experienced attorney on your side who can advise you regarding your legal rights and fight for the best possible outcome in your case. Offering relentless representation and skillful advocacy, the Fox Law Firm PLLC has been helping clients achieve positive results in their DUI cases since 1985. Contact Attorney Jon Fox for a free consultation by calling (425) 584-6627.

Categories: DUI Penalties