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