Ignition Interlock Devices Would Be Required in All New Jersey DWI Convictions Under Proposed State Senate Bill

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.

Under current New Jersey DWI law, a court has the discretion to order the use of an IID during sentencing for first offenses when the defendant’s BAC was less than 0.15 percent. The use of an IID is mandatory for a second or subsequent conviction, or if the defendant’s BAC was 0.15 percent or higher. A person ordered to use an IID is responsible for paying a monthly leasing fee, subject to exemptions for low-income individuals. Failure to install an IID as ordered, or circumventing an installed IID in order to operate a vehicle, can result in a one-year license suspension and other penalties. State law also prohibits a person from blowing into an IID in order to allow another person to operate the vehicle.

The proposed bill, S385, was approved by the NJSBA on October 27, 2014. The New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee approved an earlier version of the bill on March 24. The full Assembly passed its companion bill, A1368, on June 26. The bill would amend the DWI statute to include IID installation for a three- to 12-month period as a mandatory penalty for a first-time DWI, regardless of the defendant’s BAC.

An arrest for alleged DWI can have a serious impact on your life, regardless of whether you are ever charged with an offense. You may face license suspension and court-ordered services. A knowledgeable and skilled DWI defense attorney in New Jersey can help you understand and defend your rights. At Levow & Associates, we have dedicated our law practice exclusively to defending DWI cases. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case, contact us online or at (877) 975-3399. We are available to help you 24/7.

More Blog Posts:

What Is the Current Status of the Alcotest Machine in New Jersey DWI Cases? New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, August 23, 2014

Court Can Require Ignition Interlock after Refusal to Submit to Chemical Testing, Even if Police Did Not Include It in Warning, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, July 5, 2014

Ignition Interlocks are Now Required in Most New Jersey DWI Convictions, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, October 8, 2010

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