Use of Ignition Interlock Devices in California

In addition to the initial test to start a vehicle, random tests will be initiated by the device every 5 to 15 minutes after the vehicle is in motion. The device allows 6 minutes to take the test once initiated, giving the operator time to pull over if an in-motion test cannot be performed safely. For longer journeys, the test will be initiated about every 45 minutes after the first few results.

What is an IID?

An IID (ignition interlock device) is a small breathalyzer unit installed on the steering column of a vehicle to test the breath alcohol content of the operator.  The device can be set up to register a “fail” at a preset blood alcohol level.  Some devices register a fail if any blood alcohol is present, others register a fail at a blood alcohol content of 0.02% to 0.04%.  If the IID registers a fail, then the vehicle will not start.  To help protect against the driver having a sober individual provide the initial breath sample, the IID will ask for “rolling” samples.  Ignition interlock devices must be installed by professionals and require periodic calibration to maintain an accurate reading.

In addition to the initial test to start a vehicle, random tests will be initiated by the device every 5 to 15 minutes after the vehicle is in motion.  The device allows 6 minutes to take the test once initiated, giving the operator time to pull over if an in-motion test cannot be performed safely.  For longer journeys, the test will be initiated about every 45 minutes after the first few results.

IIDs record results that are downloaded or printed out each time the unit is calibrated (usually every 30 to 60 days) or upon request, allowing law enforcement agencies to assess compliance with DUI laws.   Each successful sample, as well as failed samples, will be recorded and reviewed by legal authorities.

The units are paid for by the user.  There is an initial installation fee, in addition to the following other fees: daily rental, maintenance, and downloading.  Installation fees are typically between $75 and $100, while the daily rental fee is approximately $2.50 a day.

How do IIDs work?

Electric current that translates to an alcohol equivalent is created when a chemical reaction takes place in the ethanol-geared fuel cell sensor of the ignition interlock device.  Evidentiary breathalyzers using infrared spectroscopy technology are more accurate; however, the fuel cell units are less expensive and perform more than adequately in cases of alcohol consumption.

There are safeguards in place to ensure that the operator of the vehicle is the one taking the test.  On top of it being a punishable offense to have someone else take the test, the unit will not reach far enough to allow someone in another seat to breathe into the unit.  Additionally, certain breath patterns must be performed correctly to receive a “pass.”

Recorded information will include all starts and stops, each test result and any attempt to disable or tamper with the device.

Why would an IID be installed?

In the state of California, ignition interlock devices are often installed after a DUI conviction as a condition of probation. A judge can order placement of an IID if there is conviction for any of the following:

  • Driving Under the Influence – Vehicle Code (VC) Section 23152A
  • Operating a Vehicle with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.08% or higher – VC Section 23152B
  • Suspended license violation(s) resulting from a DUI conviction – VC Section 14601.2

Beginning July 1st of 2010, AB-91, a pilot program will take effect in the the following counties: Los Angeles, Tulare, Sacramento and Alameda.  These counties will require IIDs to be installed in all vehicles owned or operated by anyone convicted of a DUI offense.  This will apply even to first time offenders.  The only exceptions to this new law will be company owned vehicles and motorcycles.

Also beginning on July 1, 2010, SB-598 will take effect.  This law will shorten the amount of time certain repeat offenders have to wait before becoming eligible to receive restricted licenses.

For more information regarding ignition interlock devices and the new laws going into effect on July 1, 2010, contact the DUI Professor!