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Can asthma affect your ability to use ignition interlocks?

It’s not often that we ask our Virginia readers to consider criminal cases in other states. That’s because, as you’re probably already be aware, each state has the authority to enforce its own laws. This means that what applies in one state may not necessarily apply in another.

There are some times though when it may be necessary to look at cases in other states, particularly ones that involve issues that are applicable in our own jurisdiction. Take for example a recently decided on case in Missouri in which a man challenged the enforcement of interlock devices on vehicles driven by people with respiratory difficulties. His case raised an important question we think is applicable in any state, including here in Virginia:

Can asthma affect your ability to use ignition interlocks?

As you may already know, ignition interlock devices work similarly to Breathalyzer machines, which require drivers to provide a breath sample in order to determine their blood-alcohol concentration. Unlike Breathalyzers though, IIDs can disable a vehicle not already in motion if a driver’s breath sample registers the presence of alcohol.

What was argued in the case above was that a person with a respiratory health condition, such as asthma, may not be able to blow into the device with the necessary force to register an accurate BAC. This could create major problems because the device may prevent an individual from using their vehicle even though they may be completely sober.

Though the Virginia Code does not specifically state that accommodations must be allowed to persons with respiratory conditions when using an IID, it’s worth pointing out that adjustments can be made to these machines to account for decreased lung capacity or an inability to blow hard into the device. Drivers here in Leesburg and across Virginia may not be aware of how this process works though, which is why it’s also important to remember that you can obtain legal counsel at any time.

Sources: Courthouse News Service, “Asthmatic Challenges DUI Interlock System,” Joe Harris, Feb. 9, 2015

Leagle, “Reed v. Missouri Department of Revenue,” July 7, 2015, Accessed July 20, 2015

The National Conference of State Legislatures, “State Ignition Interlock Laws,” Updated May 2015, Accessed July 20, 2015

MADD, “Ignition Interlock FAQ’s,” Accessed July 20, 2015

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