A 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.