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What is an ignition interlock device and how does it work?

If you are convicted in Virginia on charges of driving while intoxicated or maiming of another resulting from driving while intoxicated, under Virginia Code §18.2-270.1, you may have to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. This is in addition to any other penalties associated with the crime you were convicted upon. This can be very detrimental in a number of ways.

An ignition interlock device is an instrument that is attached to the vehicle’s ignition system. It measures the motorist’s blood alcohol content via a breath test taken before the motorist starts the vehicle. If the motorist’s BAC is 0.02 percent or higher, the ignition interlock system will keep the motorist’s vehicle from starting. A motorist may also be required to take a random “rolling retest” periodically while driving. If the motorist’s BAC is 0.02 percent or above, the instrument will make the vehicle’s headlights flash and horn beep.

It is important to note that having a BAC of 0.02 percent is well below the legal limit of 0.08 percent. This means that a person could fail the breath test even if he or she is not necessarily intoxicated. For example, a person may have a drink with a meal, but could subsequently fail a breath test even if he or she is not drunk.

Moreover, if a motorist’s car will not start it could affect their ability to drive to essential places. For example, a BAC as low as 0.02 could keep a motorist from driving to work, a doctor’s appointment or even simply the grocery store. This could prevent a motorist from carrying out his or her daily tasks and could put the motorist’s job in jeopardy, even if he or she is not intoxicated.

As this shows, having an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle is an undesirable penalty. It could affect your everyday life, even you are not drunk when you try to start your vehicle. It may seem like an unduly harsh penalty, but it is within the court’s power to order it. Therefore, if you are facing drunk driving charges it is important that you mount a strong defense. If successful, you may not be convicted and thus will avoid the penalties associated with DWI charges.

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