Federal Government Recommends Expanding Use of Ignition Interlock Devices in DWI Cases

Keyless IgnitionNew Jersey law imposes a wide variety of penalties for the traffic offense of driving while intoxicated (DWI). Some of these penalties, like fines and jail time, are primarily punitive. Other penalties have the additional goal of public safety. A license suspension after a DWI certainly counts as punishment, but proponents of license suspensions often cite the public safety benefit of keeping DWI offenders off the roads. A similar justification accompanies the New Jersey law requiring the use of an ignition interlock device (IID), which requires the driver to submit a breath sample and prevents a vehicle from starting if the sample shows a blood alcohol content (BAC) above a certain amount. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a federal agency, recommends the expanded use of IIDs, based largely on its assessment of the benefit to public safety. A bill currently pending in the New Jersey Legislature would require the installation of an IID for all DWI convictions.

Under current New Jersey law, the penalty for a first-time DWI offense does not include mandatory IID installation if the defendant’s BAC was less than 0.15 percent. Municipal court judges still have discretionary authority to order IID use in such cases during the period of the driver’s license suspension, and for six to 12 months after the reinstatement of the license. For a first offense with a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher, IID installation is mandatory for a similar period of time. After a second or subsequent DWI offense, IID installation is mandatory during the suspension period and for one to three years afterwards.

A DWI defendant cannot drive any vehicle other than the one with the IID installed while they are subject to a court order requiring an IID. Failing to install an IID as ordered, or operating a vehicle equipped with an IID by having someone else blow into the device, can result in an additional one-year license suspension. Other IID-related offenses include blowing into someone else’s IID to allow them to start the vehicle, tampering with an IID, and knowingly lending or leasing a vehicle without an IID to someone subject to a court order requiring an IID. These are all disorderly person offenses, which can carry penalties of up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.

According to the CDC, the installation and use of IIDs decreases repeat DWI violations by around 70 percent. Every state in the U.S. has laws mandating IID use in some cases, but the CDC states that only about 20 percent of all DWI convictions include IID orders. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in late 2016 found that state laws requiring IIDs in all DWI case were associated with a seven percent decrease in the rate of fatal traffic accidents in which impaired driving was a factor. Research like this has led the CDC to recommend that all states require IID installation in all DWI cases. A bill currently pending in both houses of the New Jersey Legislature, A4016/S2447, would do just that.

If you are facing a charge of an alleged DWI offense in a New Jersey court, you should consult with a knowledgeable and experienced DWI attorney. Evan Levow has practiced law in New Jersey for more than 20 years. He can help you understand your legal rights and guide you through the court process. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (877) 593-1717.

More Blog Posts:

New Jersey Appellate Court Considers Police Officers’ Disclosure Requirements Regarding Ignition Interlock Devices After DWI Arrests, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, July 28, 2016

Ignition Interlock Devices Give DWI Defendants an Opportunity, but Also Create an Obligation, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, January 10, 2016

New Jersey Governor Blocks Bill that Would Lessen Some DWI Penalties, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, March 24, 2015

Photo credit: “Keyless Ignition,” via Public Domain Pictures.