If you are facing charges of DUI in Los Angeles, there are a number of serious consequences upon a conviction. One of these is the requirement to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle in order to be allowed to legally use it.

Using an IID is an inconvenience and expense on the one hand, but on the other hand, it enables you to drive in situations where you wouldn't otherwise be able to legally under California law. Thus, if a DUI conviction cannot be outright averted, fighting for a restricted license and then the right to later drive on a full license, with an IID requirement, is a much better outcome than to simply lose your driving privileges completely.

At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we always fight to preserve your license and avoid a conviction as the first option. But when that is not possible, we don't simply give up. We apply our well seasoned negotiating skills and our deep knowledge of the California and local L.A. court system to win you the most favorable outcome possible for your case. One element we often secure for our clients is the right to drive legally in a vehicle with an IID installed.

To learn more or for a free legal consultation, contact us 24/7 at 310-848-1376.

What Is an Ignition Interlock Device?

An ignition interlock device (IID) is, in essence, a miniature breathalyzer test that tests your BAC level before allowing you to operate the vehicle in which it is installed. Unless a breath sample with zero alcohol content is submitted to the machine, it will block you from starting up the car. Most modern IIDs are rather compact and can be installed on the vehicle's dash, some of them being as small as a smart phone.

Ignition interlock devices are also designed to randomly ask for breath samples while you are driving (and not simply at the beginning when you turn the ignition switch). Between five and 15 minutes from start-up, a new sample must be submitted; and then again, every 45 minutes or so after that.

Since one cannot always immediately stop to submit a breath sample while driving, IIDs give you 6 minutes to do so. If necessary, the driver must pull over to the side of the road to safely submit the sample.

Those who fail a BAC test on their IID have that failed start-up attempt automatically reported to the court handling their case. Too many fails could result is serious consequences. However, failure to pass an IID breath test does not disable your vehicle. You can simply submit another breath sample again later.

Also note that your IID must be installed by a professional and must be installed on all vehicles you hold the title to or will be driving. And after every 60 days, the IID must be taken in for general maintenance to ensure it is still in good working condition.

Finally, it should be understood that IIDs are designed to detect and prevent tampering and false submissions.

If someone attempts to have another person submit the breath sample in their place, for example, the machine can often detect the differences in "breath pattern." Requiring random samples while driving also plays a role, and the short cord of IIDs will not allow someone in the back or even passenger seat to submit the sample. And since asking another person to "pose as you" and submit an alcohol-free breath sample in your place is a distinct crime that brings additional punishments.

Additionally, an IID can detect and report on any attempt to disconnect it or to tamper with it. 

Who Is Required to Install an IID?

It is possible for the presiding judge to require you to install an ignition interlock device for an DUI conviction whatsoever at his/her own discretion. In most cases, however, a first-time offense does not result in an IID requirement. But there are some types of DUI convictions that make IID installation mandatory (though this requirement can vary from county to county).

Pilot Program Counties

A first-time offense normally only results in an IID requirement if your BAC was excessively high (.15% or higher), if you refused to submit to the chemical test, or if there are other severe aggravating factors.

But since 2010, if you live in a "pilot program county (Los Angeles, Alameda, Tulare, and Sacramento Counties), under California Vehicle Code Section 23700, every first-time DUI requires installation of an IID as a sentencing element.

The pilot program requires a minimum IID usage period of five months. In cases of DUI with injury, the IID must be installed for a full year.

The pilot program is meant to determine whether or not an automatic IID requirement for every DUI serves to reduce the number of repeat-offense DUIs. If the program is deemed to accomplish this goal to a reasonable degree, it will likely be implemented state-wide. Otherwise, it will expire on July 1st of 2017.

Pilot County Repeat Offenses

Another part of trying to discourage repeat offenses in the pilot program counties is having increased IID requirements for multiple DUIs within a 10-year look-back period.

There are mandatory IID usage periods assigned to various specific repeat offense DUIs as well as mandatory periods during which your license must be suspended before you can have an IID installed. And the suspension and IID usage periods are longer the more DUIs you have on your criminal record.

The IID and suspension periods are also longer if you are convicted of a felony level DUI. While most DUIs are misdemeanors, 4th offense DUIs, DUI causing injury or death, and certain other classes of DUI are felonies.

Here are the numbers on Pilot Program IID requirements:

  • First-time misdemeanor DUIs get a 5-month IID period; first-time felony DUIs get a 12-month IID period.
  • Second offense DUIs see a 12-month IID period for misdemeanor DUIs and a 24-month IID period for felony DUIs.
  • Third offense DUIs get a 24-month IID period for misdemeanors and a 48-month IID period for felonies.
  • For a fourth or subsequent DUI within 10 years, the IID period is 36 months for misdemeanor offenses and 48 months for felonies.
  • For DUI with injury convictions, a first-time offense results in a one-year IID period, a second-time offense in a two-year IID period, a third-time offense in a three-year IID period, and a fourth or subsequent offense in a four-year IID period.

As to suspension periods and time before you can apply for a restricted license (that allows you to drive to and from work and DUI class using an IID), the sentencing runs as follows:

  • A first-time DUI brings a license suspension period of six months. The defendant may be able to apply for a restricted license, but the presiding judge will decide how long he/she must wait to do so.
  • A second DUI has a suspension period of two years, and you can apply for a restricted license after the first 90 days.
  • A third DUI has a suspension period of three years, with an 18-month wait before you can get a restricted license and an ignition interlock device.
  • A fourth or subsequent DUI has a license suspension period of four years. After the first 18 months, you can apply for a restricted license.

General California IID Law

Even those counties not in the Pilot Program will still have many cases in which an IID is part of the DUI sentence, though IIDs are not as frequently required. The nature of the DUI incident and the number of prior DUI or wet reckless convictions will figure heavily into whether or not the judge opts to require you to use an IID.

In cases in which the defendant is convicted of driving on a license that was suspended at the time based on a previous DUI conviction, California Vehicle Code Section 14601 makes IID a mandatory part of the sentence. Such an offense can get you from 1 to 3 years of required IID installation on all of your vehicles.

Also note that the California DMV requires those who wish to receive a restricted license to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle. Even after your license is restored from restricted to full status, you may have to still use the IID for a time, but you cannot even qualify for the restricted license without agreeing to install the IID.

What Is the Cost of Installing an IID?

The cost of installing and maintaining your ignition interlock device falls squarely on you and not the state. There are exceptions, however, for those in L.A. County and other Pilot Program Counties who can demonstrate their inability to pay. In that case, the costs will be reduced if not eliminated.

It is not unusual for the total cost of installing and using an IID to be $500 or more, but the exact amount will vary based on which state-approved company and device you use and how long you need to continue using the IID.

Many companies will charge up to $100 for initial installation. They will then charge you around $2.50 per day that you use the device. However, there will also be maintenance, calibration, and other applicable fees.

Which IID Companies Can I Use?

The state and the court must approve of the specific IID manufacturing and installation company you opt for. You cannot install the device yourself but must have an "authorized installer" do it for you.

Five state-approved IID companies you may want to check with are: Alcohol Detection Systems, Sens-O-Lock, Guardian Interlock, Smart Start, and Intox-a-lock.

It pays to shop around and compare prices and company track records. But the field of options is certainly smaller because of state-imposed restrictions. The most important factors in selecting an IID installer are state and court approved status, reliable equipment and servicing, and competitive pricing.

What About False Positives?

Ignition interlock devices utilize fuel-cell technologies that a sensitive specifically to alcohol alone. There is little to no risk of other substances wafting in the air, like cigarette smoke or gasoline, to be mistaken for alcohol by the machine.

That said, it is still possible to get a "false positive" in the sense of alcohol from mouth wash, cough medicine, or other sources causing you to fail the BAC breath test. This means you should avoid using such false-positive-prone substances before submitting a breath sample to the IID.

However, if a false positive does occur, you can normally just rinse out your mouth thoroughly with water, wait a few minutes, and then submit a new and passing breath sample. The fail will automatically be recorded, but so will the quick follow-up passed breath test, which will make it unlikely for the failed test to ultimately affect you negatively.

Contact Us Today for Help

At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we have deep understanding of the ins and outs of California law concerning IIDs. We can first of all help you to avoid needing an ignition interlock device by preventing a DUI conviction. In certain cases, however, when this is not possible, we fight to secure you the right to drive with an IID.

If you have any questions about how ignition interlock devices work in California DUI law or if you would like a free legal consultation on the details of your upcoming DUI case, feel free to call us anytime 24/7/365 at 310-848-1376