Articles Posted in Ignition Interlock

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.

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