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What Is an Ignition Interlock Device & Do I Have to Get One?

If you’re convicted of a DUI in Pennsylvania, you’ll face a number of different potential consequences, including having your driver’s license suspended, facing heavy fines and fees, and much more. However, thanks to Pennsylvania’s fairly recent Ignition Interlock Law (which went into effect on August 25, 2017), you may also have to install an ignition interlock device on your car. Previously, ignition interlock devices were only required for repeat offenders, but now nearly any driver could be required to install one of these intrusive machines in every car they own.

What Is an Ignition Interlock Device?

Ignition interlock devices, or IIDs for short, are essentially a breathalyzer that’s wired into your car. The breathalyzer sends a signal to your car’s computer which shuts off the ignition cycle unless you’ve successfully blown into the breathalyzer and recorded a test that’s below the legal limit of .08. If you get into your car like normal and are completely sober, then your engine should be unlocked as soon as you pass the test, allowing it to start like normal. Likewise, most IIDs also require you to pass the test for a second time at a random interval after you start your drive, usually anywhere from five minutes to as much as 30 minutes into your trip. This is to prevent those who are potentially intoxicated from having a random person pass the test for them in order to turn their engine on.

IIDs are more than just breathalyzers, however. They also keep track of how many tests they run, and the results of each of them. If you ever fail one of these tests, it’s stored in the IID’s memory banks, which are then extracted when you bring it in for maintenance, service, and calibration, which usually must be completed once per month.

Who Needs to Get an Ignition Interlock Device?

In Pennsylvania, nearly any driver who’s convicted of a DUI charge can be required to install an ignition interlock device on any car they own or operate. This is particularly true for repeat offenders, who will be required to install one of these devices barring some sort of rare extenuating circumstances. However, first-time offenders will also possibly to install one of these devices as well. General DUI convictions, or those with a BAC between .08 percent and .099 percent, do not require an ignition interlock device because there is no license suspension associated with this conviction. However, those with a blood alcohol of .10 or above will have their license suspended for 12 months with immediate eligibility for an ignition interlock limited license. This may sound like an intrusive burden, but the truth is it actually allows those who have been convicted of DUI to get their driving privileges back far faster than you would otherwise by serving your full driver’s license suspension.

How to Get an Ignition Interlock Device

When you reach 30 days before your eligibility date for limited license restoration, PennDOT will mail you a letter with the requirements you’ll need to fulfill in order to do so. This letter will include an application for an ignition interlock license and information on where to find your closest ignition interlock vendor. You don’t actually purchase the device outright—you lease it, and leases typically cost anywhere between $900 to $1,300 per year. In addition, you’ll also be responsible for the costs and fees associated with regular maintenance and servicing on ignition interlock devices throughout your lease.

You’ll be required to have an ignition interlock device for a minimum of six months. For a first-time offender, you may face a six-month ignition interlock requirement if you refuse to take a chemical test—this results in an automatic 12-month suspension with eligibility for an ignition interlock limited license at the six-month mark. A good rule of thumb to remember: for anything other than a first-time offender with immediate eligibility, you’ll have to serve half of your license suspension before you become eligible for an ignition interlock limited license.

If you’ve been accused of driving under the influence, don’t hesitate to reach out to an experienced legal team for help. Contact a Scranton DUI attorney by calling the Law Offices of William D. Thompson at (570) 666-1068 today.
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