Articles Posted in Ignition Interlock

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.
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New 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.

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New Jersey law regarding driving while intoxicated (DWI) establishes multiple penalties for a DWI conviction, including a license suspension, fines, and the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) in some cases. The related offense of refusal to submit to breath testing and failing to install an IID as ordered also result in a license suspension. A bill currently pending in the New Jersey Legislature would modify existing state law by reducing the mandatory period of license suspension for certain offenses, while also increasing the mandatory use of an IID. Introduced in the Assembly as A4016, the bill has passed out of the Assembly Judiciary and Appropriations Committees. Its Senate counterpart, S2447, is currently awaiting action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Under current law, the length of the mandatory license suspension for a first DWI conviction depends on the defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC). If the BAC is at least 0.08 percent but less than 0.10 percent, state law mandates three months of license suspension. For a BAC of 0.10 percent or higher, the license suspension is at least seven months but not more than one year. A conviction for refusal results, under current law, in a license suspension of seven months to one year. A failure to install an IID as ordered by a court currently results in a one-year license suspension.

The New Jersey Legislature passed a bill in 2015 reducing the length of license suspensions in DWI and related cases, but the Governor conditionally vetoed it. The license suspension provisions of A4016/S2447 are an effort at compromise. For first-time DWI offenses, the license suspension for defendants with a BAC of at least 0.08 percent but less than 0.10 percent would be 30 days under the new bill. For a BAC of at least 0.10 percent but less than 0.15 percent, the suspension period would be 45 days. For a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher, it would be 90 days. A refusal conviction would result in a license suspension for 90 days. Unlike the other offenses, a failure to install an IID would result in an increased suspension for 18 months, instead of the current one year.

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New Jersey’s implied consent law makes it a traffic offense to refuse to submit a breath sample during a driving while intoxicated (DWI) investigation. Because of the wide range of possible consequences for refusal, state law requires police to read a “standard statement” detailing those consequences before requesting a breath sample. Several years ago, the New Jersey Legislature made the use of an ignition interlock device (IID) mandatory for certain DWI and refusal convictions. A DWI defendant recently argued to the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division that her refusal conviction should be thrown out because the standard statement in use at the time did not mention required IID use. The court ruled against the defendant in State v. Monaco but offered an overview of when a defective notification should result in relief for a defendant.

An IID is a device that attaches to a car’s ignition mechanism. In order to start the car, the driver must blow into the device, which measures their blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If the person’s BAC is above a certain amount, the IID prevents the car from starting. An IID must be professionally installed, and the defendant must bear the cost of the device in order to retain their driving privileges. Failing to install an IID as ordered, tampering with an IID, or otherwise circumventing or attempting to circumvent the device is a separate offense.

For a first DWI offense, an IID is required if the defendant’s BAC was 0.15 percent or higher, and it must be used for a period of six months to one year after the end of the license suspension. A conviction for refusal requires an IID installation for the same length of time. A second or subsequent DWI offense requires an IID installation for one to three years after the suspension period ends, regardless of BAC.

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Ignition interlock devices (IIDs) are becoming more and more common in driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases in New Jersey and around the country. For a certain period of time after some DWI convictions, an individual may only operate a vehicle equipped with an IID, which requires the person to submit a breath sample and prevents the ignition key from turning if the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is too high. The IID requirement acts as a safeguard against drinking and driving by people with DWI convictions, while still allowing them to drive when necessary. A lawsuit against a city government demonstrates a possibly unexpected consequence of this policy:  claims of negligence against cities and other local governments for failing to ensure that a person ordered to use an IID actually does so. This type of lawsuit adds a civil—as in, non-criminal—element to DWI law.

The installation of an IID is mandatory for certain DWI offenses, or it may be within a court’s discretion to order its use. Before a person may start the vehicle, they must blow into a device that, just like a breathalyzer, measures BAC levels. The maximum allowable BAC is usually less than the “legal limit” of 0.08 percent, since the point of the device is to prevent a person from driving before they near the point of legal impairment.

New Jersey’s IID law expressly acknowledges that some people with DWI convictions will continue to drive anyway. For many first DWI offenses, New Jersey judges have discretion to order the use of an IID for six months to one year after driver’s license restoration. If a first DWI involves BAC of at least 0.15 percent, however, an IID is mandatory, both during the license suspension period and for six months to a year afterwards. The penalties for a second, third, or subsequent DWI offense include mandatory IID installation during the license suspension period and for an additional one- to three-year period. A person commits a new offense if they violate an order to use an IID, and they could also face additional penalties in the underlying DWI case.

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie rejected the Legislature’s effort to reform state law regarding penalties for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in a conditional veto issued in late March 2015. A “conditional veto” allows the Governor to object to a bill as passed, while presenting proposed revisions or a replacement. The Legislature may then decide whether or not to approve the Governor’s changes. The bill, passed by both houses of the Legislature, would substantially reduce mandatory license suspension periods while increasing requirements for ignition interlock devices (IIDs). The Governor’s primary objection was apparently to the repeal of mandatory license-suspension periods.

The bill, A1368, was first introduced in the Assembly in January 2014. The Assembly passed it in June 2014, followed by the Senate in February 2015. A substantial portion of the bill addresses license suspension and IID requirements. The New Jersey DWI statute currently requires, for first-time DWI offenders, a three-month license suspension if a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.08 percent or higher but less than 0.10 percent, or a license suspension of seven months to one year if their BAC was 0.10 percent or higher. For a second DWI offense, current law mandates a two-year license suspension, followed by required installation of an IID. A third or subsequent offense results in a mandatory 10-year suspension with an IID requirement.

Under the changes made by A1368, the mandatory license suspension period for almost all DWI offenses would be 10 days, during which time they would be required to have an IID installed in their vehicle as a condition of license reinstatement. The period of time a person would be required to continue using the IID roughly corresponds to the length of the mandatory license suspensions under the current statute. The bill generally gives judges discretion to impose different periods of license suspension or IID use, based on factors like risk to the public, the person’s driving record, length of time without traffic violations, and hardship to the person or the person’s dependents.

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New Jersey’s legal system has developed several methods to discourage people with convictions for driving while intoxicated (DWI) and related offenses from getting behind the wheel after drinking. Along with every other state and the District of Columbia, New Jersey requires the use of ignition interlock devices (IIDs) in certain situations. At least one state has gone much further in restricting people with convictions, or even just arrests, for DWI and other offenses. Utah’s “alcohol restricted driver” (ARD) law prohibits drivers from operating a vehicle with any alcohol in their system for periods ranging from two to ten years, with a lifetime ban in some circumstances.

In order to start a vehicle equipped with an IID, the person must blow into the device, which operates much like a breathalyzer or other breath-test machine. If the device determines that the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is above a threshold amount, which is usually 0.05 percent in New Jersey, it prevents the vehicle from starting for a period of several hours. The “legal limit” for DWI is 0.08 percent.

New Jersey’s DWI statute makes installation of an IID mandatory for offenses involving a BAC result of 0.15 percent or higher, as well as first-offense convictions for refusal to submit to chemical testing. A judge has discretion to order an IID for lesser offenses. Driving with a BAC above the IID amount, but below the legal limit of 0.08 percent, is not automatically a violation under New Jersey law, but any attempt to circumvent the IID, including by driving someone else’s car after drinking, is considered a violation.
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A bill that was recently approved by the New Jersey State Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee (NJSBA) would change the requirements for ignition interlock devices (IIDs) in driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases. Under current New Jersey DWI law, an IID is only mandatory for second or subsequent convictions, or in cases where chemical testing shows a sufficiently high blood alcohol content (BAC). The proposed bill would make IIDs mandatory in all DWI cases across the state. The New Jersey Assembly passed a companion bill in June 2014. A previous version of the bill was passed by the state Senate, but not the Assembly, in 2013.

State law defines an IID as a device that “permit[s] a motor vehicle to be started only when the driver is sober.” The device must be installed on the dashboard of a DWI defendant’s vehicle. Prior to starting the vehicle, the driver must blow into the device, much like with an Alcotest machine or other breathalyzer. The device analyzes the breath sample and, if the BAC is reading is greater than the pre-programmed maximum, it prevents the vehicle’s ignition switch from sending a signal to the starter. In short, the driver may turn the key, but the car won’t start.

If the IID prevents operation of the vehicle, it may continue to do so for some programmed period of time to allow the driver to sober up. The accuracy and reliability of breathalyzer devices is a common issue in DWI cases, and IIDs can present similar problems. State law requires the Motor Vehicle Commission to certify IIDs and maintain a list of approved providers, but the devices require regular maintenance in order to function correctly. Continue reading

The New Jersey Superior Court ruled that a defendant can be required to use an ignition interlock device as a penalty for refusal to submit to a breath test, even though the officer who read the required warning about refusal did not mention any penalties. The defendant in State v. McGrath argued that the officer violated his rights by failing to include the possible requirement of an ignition interlock device if he refused a breath test, and that the court should therefore dismiss the charge. He was acquitted of DWI, but convicted of refusal. On appeal, the Superior Court ruled that the lack of specific warning about an ignition interlock device did not preclude it as a penalty.

A police patrolman issued tickets to the defendant on August 20, 2011 for DWI and refusal to submit to a chemical breath test. He testified in municipal court that he arrested the defendant and took him to the police station, where he read the “New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission Standard Statement for Operators of a Motor Vehicle” aloud to the defendant. State law requires that an officer read this notice (PDF file) before asking a DWI suspect to submit to chemical testing. The most recent version of the notice at the time was finalized on April 26, 2004. It did not mention ignition interlock as a mandatory penalty for refusal, which the state enacted in 2010. The defendant refused to submit to testing.

The defendant moved to dismiss the refusal charge because of the incomplete notice. The municipal court denied the motion. It found him guilty of refusal, but acquitted him on the DWI charge. Because he had three prior DWI convictions, the court deemed the defendant a third-or-subsequent offender. His sentence included a ten-year license suspension and installation of an ignition interlock for a period lasting one year after restoration of his driving privileges. The defendant raised the same argument about the incomplete warning to the Law Division, which affirmed the refusal conviction but reversed the ignition interlock requirement. Continue reading

If you are convicted of a first offense New Jersey DWI/DUI, and you blew 0.15% or higher, or if you are a second or greater alleged New Jersey DWI/DUI offender, you will have to install an ignition interlock device on the car you primarily drive, if you are convicted.

If you are convicted of Refusing to Submit to Breath Testing, first offense included, you must install an interlock. So, even on a first offense, where you are charged with the DWI, where there is no reading, if you are convicted of the Refusal, you must install the interlock for 6 – 12 months.

This adds a significant expense to any conviction, as you must pay to install, maintain, and remove the ignition interlock device.