Lawsuits Challenge the Constitutionality of Ignition Interlock Devices in DWI Cases

New Jersey Turnpike widening Robbinsville 2013A conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) typically results in a fine, a period of driver’s license suspension, and possibly jail time. Many states’ DWI laws also require the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) as a condition of driver’s license reinstatement. A driver with an IID must submit a breath sample to the device, which will prevent the engine from starting if the sample shows blood alcohol content (BAC) above a certain level. Courts have the option of ordering an IID in some New Jersey DWI cases, but it is mandatory in other cases. Lawsuits filed around the country have challenged the legality and constitutionality of IID requirements, with varying degrees of success. While none of these lawsuits and court decisions directly affect New Jersey DWI cases, they might offer a guide to possible challenges to this state’s requirements.

Municipal court judges in New Jersey are required by law to order the installation of an IID in some DWI cases, and in all cases of refusal to submit to breath testing. An IID order is not mandatory for first-time DWI offenders whose BAC was less than 0.15 percent. If a judge decides to order IID installation under those circumstances, the order can be for a minimum of six months after the reinstatement of the defendant’s license, to a maximum of one year. The time period is the same for mandatory IID orders in refusal cases and first-time DWI cases with BAC of at least 0.15 percent. Second or subsequent convictions for DWI or refusal include mandatory IID installation for one to three years. Failure to install an IID when ordered to do so can result in further license suspension and other penalties.

The federal government encourages states to enact laws requiring the use of IIDs after DWI convictions. A law passed by Congress in 1998, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, reduces the amount of federal highway funds available to states that do not enact “repeat intoxicated driver laws.” This term is defined to include minimum license suspension periods and mandatory IID installation. The U.S. Supreme Court held that Congress may, within reasonable limits, attach conditions to federal funding provided to states in South Dakota v. Dole. State-level IID requirements have also faced various legal challenges.

Lawsuits challenging state IID statutes have asserted a wide range of claims, including direct challenges to the constitutionality of IID requirements. and. A Washington appellate court ruled in 2013, in Nielsen v. Wash. State Dept. of Licensing, that provisions of that state’s IID law violated DWI defendants’ due process rights. Two state appellate courts, however, rejected arguments that IID statutes violated constitutional prohibitions on ex post facto laws: Gordon v. Reg. of Motor Vehicles (Massachusetts, 2009), and Yepa v. N.M. Tax. & Rev. Dept. (New Mexico, 2015).

DWI defendants have also asserted claims that mandatory IID use violates their rights under other statutes. In 2012, for example, a federal court in Kansas denied the state’s motion to dismiss a claim that requiring installation of an IID, without reasonable accommodations for certain medical conditions, violated a person’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (McCray v. Kansas).

If you have been charged with DWI in New Jersey, DWI lawyer Evan Levow can advocate for your rights both in and out of court. Please contact us today online or at (877) 593-1717 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team.

More Blog Posts:

Federal Government Recommends Expanding Use of Ignition Interlock Devices in DWI Cases, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, August 17, 2017

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

Photo credit: By Mr. Matté (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.