What Is an Ignition Interlock Device (IID)?
Modern ignition interlock devices use an alcohol-specific fuel cell for a sensor. A fuel cell sensor is an electrochemical device in which alcohol undergoes a chemical oxidation reaction at a catalytic electrode surface (platinum) to generate an electric current. This current is then measured and converted to an alcohol equivalent reading. Although fuel cell technology is not as accurate or reliable as infrared spectroscopy technology used in evidentiary breathalyzers, they are cheaper and tend to be more specific for alcohol. Alcohol, as defined here, includes isopropanol, sorbitol, menthol, methanol, and a host of other types of alcohols, in addition to ethanol (consumed liquor).
The devices keep a record of the activity on the device and the interlocked vehicle’s electrical system. This record, or log, is printed out or downloaded each time the device’s sensors are calibrated, commonly at 30-, 60-, or 90-day intervals. Authorities may require periodic review of the log. If violations are detected, then additional sanctions can be implemented.
Periodic calibration is performed using either a pressurized alcohol–gas mixture at a known alcohol concentration, or with an alcohol wet bath arrangement that contains a known alcohol solution. The costs of installation, maintenance, and calibration are generally paid by the offender. On average, ignition interlock devices are about $70–150 to install and about $60–90 per month for monitoring and calibration.
Many countries are requiring the ignition interlock as a condition for drivers convicted of driving under the influence, especially repeat offenders. Most US states now permit judges to order the installation of an IID as a condition of probation; for repeat offenders, and for first offenders in some states, installation may be mandated by law.
Some IIDs are equipped with cameras, which may be required by the jurisdiction or voluntarily used. The purpose of the camera is to identify “fail” results with the driver, which conveniently makes it easier to “clear” test failure reports when the “fail” result was triggered by a third party.
Updates To The Ignition Interlock Device Laws
As of July 1, 2010, California implemented a pilot project for DUI sentencing, as a pilot program involving four counties under AB 91: Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare. Under the pilot project, if driving on a suspended license due to a DUI conviction, legally the court must impose an ignition interlock device requirement for up to a maximum of three years from the date of conviction. As of July 1, 2010, interlocks are required upon a DUI conviction in the four counties.
In the four counties under the AB 91 pilot program, all drivers convicted of a DUI offense are required to install IIDs in their vehicles as a condition to receive restricted driving privileges. First offenders convicted of drunk driving are required to install an ignition interlock device in their car for a period of five months and second offenders for a period of one year. Previously, this requirement was only required for third offenders and permitted for second offenders, and then for a three-year period. The California DMV has written guidelines to clear up some ambiguities in the law. Costs associated with ignition interlock devices include $70 – $150 for installation and fees in the range of $60 – $80 per month thereafter.
SB 598 shortens the amount of time certain repeat DUI offenders will have to wait before becoming eligible to apply for restricted California driving privileges. To receive the restricted license, though, these drivers will be required to meet certain criteria, such as the installation of an IID in their vehicles.
Facing a DUI Charge
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