All 50 states have laws on the book that define and punish driving under the influence. While traditional means of deterrence and punishment like jail time, court fines, and license suspension remain the most commonly utilized, more states are also including the use of ignition interlocks on repeat offenders’ vehicles. Find out what an ignition interlock device is and when the court might order that a Draeger interlock, a Lifesaver interlock, or another similar gadget can be legally installed in your car.
What is an Ignition Interlock?
Ignition interlocks are essentially a type of car breathalyzer that detects the presence of alcohol on the intended driver’s breath. Before the car can be started, the driver must breathe into the device, which then tests the breath’s vapor for the presence of alcohol.
If it senses that the person has been drinking or is drunk, it will not allow the car to be started. The driver must then wait a determined wait time before trying to start the car again. The length of the wait is designed to allow an inebriated person to sober up before trying to start the vehicle.
As its name implies, the breathalyzer is installed in the car ignition. This placement is strategic in preventing drunk individuals from being able to start and drive a car. These devices can be designed to report the breathalyzer results to the judge or court monitor assigned to the defendant’s case.
Many courts mandate that defendants allow the ignition interlocks to be routinely inspected. People whose cars are outfitted with them are also responsible for paying the associated ignition interlock cost totals:
- insurance of the device
All 50 states allow the use of interlocks for some DUI offenders’ vehicles. The use of these gadgets may be left up to the court and judge. Other states mandate that they be used after an offender meets certain criteria outlined by state law.
Who Must Use Interlocks?
What is the likelihood that your car will be equipped with a Guardian interlock if you are convicted of a DUI? How do states determine who must use one of these devices and who must submit to other punishments like jail time or monetary fines?
In most states, the use of these ignition breath tests is reserved for repeat DUI offenders. People who have been convicted numerous times of driving under the influence often have no choice but to allow the court to put one of these breathalyzers in their cars’ ignitions.
If they refuse, they might have to serve out a lengthy prison sentence. As such, many DUI offenders prefer to have a breath test put in their cars so that they can stay out of jail.
However, some states require its use if an offender has not responded to other means of punishment like civil fines, jail time, or license suspension. Likewise, if the offender had a minor in the vehicle at the time of the DUI, he or she may automatically have a breathalyzer put on the vehicle.
Even first-time offenders can find themselves with one of these devices put on their cars. However, this sentence is generally reserved for first-time DUI offenders who had very high blood alcohol content levels at the time of their crimes.
For that matter, blood alcohol content, or BAC, determines in some states whether or not you will get one of these gadgets attached to your car’s ignition. It is mandatory in most states with DUIs with a 0.08 or greater BAC.
A few states mandate it with a 0.15 BAC or higher. These states include:
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
The states of:
require its use after a second DUI conviction. California, North Dakota, and South Dakota allow the discretionary use of these devices for any DUI offender.
Why are Interlocks Used?
Why do some judges require DUI offenders to use these interlocks on their cars rather than pay huge monetary fines or go to jail? While many repeat drunk drivers may find these devices to be annoying, embarrassing, and inconvenient, they actually save people’s lives and teach drivers restraint and positive behavior.
They are most often used for people who have not learned from their previous drunk driving mistakes and went on to offend again. No amount of jail time, civil fines, or license suspension could teach some people not to drink and drive again.
To get through to them and to give them a chance to reform their behavior, judges can sentence these individuals to driving only with the use of one of these breathalyzers attached to their ignitions. After so many times of trying to start the car despite alcohol being on their breath, these people may learn to resist drinking if they want to be able to start and drive their cars.
Further, this form of DUI punishment can be used on offenders of all ages. Teenagers convicted of DUI may not benefit from going to prison. They also may not have the money to pay expensive court fines. In a bid to teach them better behavior while allowing them to continue going to work or school, the court may require that these teens’ cars have the breath tests installed in them for several months or longer.
In fact, many judges reserve jail time for the worst DUI convicts like those who have been found guilty of vehicular assault, manslaughter, or homicide. If they killed or seriously injured someone while driving under the influence, these individuals may find themselves sentenced to years in prison. Justice would not be served by outfitting their cars with a breathalyzer test.
As such, these gadgets are often reserved for people who have not hurt anyone else or damaged anyone’s property during their crimes. These individuals stand the best chance of paying their debt to society and reforming their behavior by having to breathe into an alcohol detector before they can start and drive their cars.
How a DUI Attorney Can Help
Many would argue that having a breathalyzer test installed in your cars ignition is light compared to other common DUI punishments. After all, you could be sitting in a jail cell or paying off a huge court fine.
Still, if the judge assigned to your case has sentenced you to using one of these interlocks on your car, you want to be sure that the punishment is warranted and that you do not have to tolerate it longer than you legally should.
A DUI lawyer can review the details of your case to ensure that both your rights and privacy are protected. An attorney can also guarantee that the state’s laws regarding the use of these devices are being followed and that the court is keeping track of how long yours has been utilized in your vehicle. When you reach the last day of using it, your lawyer can ensure that it is removed immediately by the court.
Driving under the influence is a crime in all 50 states. If you are a repeat offender yet did not hurt anyone while driving drunk, you may benefit from having a breath test attached to your car’s ignition.
This interlocking device can help you pay back your debt to society and give you the chance to stay out of jail. You can protect your rights and advocate for your future by learning how, when, and for whom these devices are most commonly used.
How To Get Your License Back After DUI
Meta: Reinstating your license after being convicted of a DUI can be a lengthy affair, and most drivers will benefit from working with an attorney who understands this complicated process.
Getting your license back after DUI conviction might not be as easy as you think. Even first-time offenders can have their licenses suspended for a year or longer if they refuse to take the chemical BAC test or fail to schedule a DMV hearing within a short period of time. Depending on where you are driving, even a single drink could result in an expensive conviction that brings almost every aspect of your life to a halt. An experienced attorney can tell you how to get your license back after DUI conviction and some steps that you can take to have the charges expunged from your record.
License Suspensions and Revocations
The majority of drivers don’t realize how complex DUIs can be until they are arrested and booked. Getting your license back after DUI isn’t always as simple as sending in a new application to the DMV. Not only can the judge suspend your license, but you can also have an administrative suspension. In some cases, even the arresting officer can suspend the driver’s license as they are being booked. DMV administrative suspensions generally take place when a driver refuses to submit to a chemical BAC test.
Many of the states throughout the country now have “implied consent” laws. These laws state that all drivers must submit to a chemical BAC test if they are asked by a law enforcement officer. Even if you are from a different state, driving on public roadways within that state is considered consent. Drivers who refuse to take these tests will automatically have their licenses taken away from them on the spot. You will then need to speak with an attorney who can tell you exactly how to get your license back after a DUI arrest. In most states, drivers have around 10 days to contact the DMV to schedule an administrative hearing. During that hearing, they will need to present a compelling argument before a DMV panel or hearing officer. Getting your license back after DUI arrest will most likely require multiple hearings before the DMV panel and judge.
A Closer Look at The Administrative Per Se Hearing (APS)
Immediately after you are arrested and charged, the law enforcement officer is required by law to submit a report to the DMV. That report must include information such as your recorded BAC, what you are officially being charged with, and why you were originally pulled over. If you don’t schedule a hearing within 10 days, then an administrative panel will go over that information behind closed doors and come to a conclusion. Repeat offenders can have their licenses suspended by a DMV hearing officer for three or more years if they refuse to submit to a chemical BAC test. First-time offenders who don’t cooperate will typically have their licenses suspended for a minimum of one year.
Just as in a criminal hearing, you can have an attorney by your side during your APS. There will also be a “prosecutor” present who will try to establish a case against you. The biggest difference between a DMV hearing and a criminal hearing is that the DMV’s hearing officer has the final say. If they have any reason to believe that you might be dangerous while behind the wheel, then they can suspend your license.
Well before your hearing, your lawyer will tell you how to get your license back after DUI arrest. These initial hearings can be somewhat complicated, and only a handful of facts can be brought up against you. That includes why you were placed under arrest, the legality of your arrest, what your BAC was at the time of your arrest, if you refused to take the chemical BAC test, and any physical impairments that might have prevented you from taking the BAC test. The arresting officer doesn’t have to testify, but the DMV may ask them to be present or reach out to them for more information.
How To Get Your License Back After DUI Conviction
Getting your license back after DUI conviction is a much different process. Unfortunately, a driver won’t have their license automatically reinstated after they have paid their fines and completed their sentence. The first step is to schedule a new hearing with the court so that you can present your case before the judge. During this hearing, the judge will want to verify that you have fulfilled all of the stipulations of your sentence. That might include penalties such as taking alcohol abuse classes, installing an ignition interlock device in your vehicle, or completing community service hours.
Many of these penalties can be confusing, but your attorney will connect you with local businesses and organizations in order to make your transition as easy as possible. One of the first things you will need to do is contact an insurance provider to discuss your options for SR-22 insurance. Also referred to as a financial responsibility filing, this type of insurance is designed for high-risk drivers. That includes those who have been convicted of charges such as a DUI or reckless driving. Once you have proof of insurance, you might then need to contact a state-approved company to have the ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle.
Throughout each of these steps, you and your lawyer must keep copies of everything you do. Those who don’t have the proper paperwork to present before the judge and DMV might have to start the process over. Unlike other forms of insurance, SR-22 policies won’t automatically be forwarded to the DMV. You should also receive a signed document from the mechanic who installed the ignition interlock device. Multiple copies of this paperwork will be given to the DMV’s hearing officer, your judge, and the district attorney.
No Case Is Hopeless
Just because it seems like your case is hopeless doesn’t mean you need to accept these charges and penalties without a fight. Every state has slightly different laws regarding DUIs, and you might be able to apply for a temporary or restricted license so that you can continue to get to work or head to school. Due to the complexity of these laws, a driver shouldn’t go to a DMV hearing or court arraignment without a DUI lawyer by their side. Any mistakes that you make during these meetings could result in harsh penalties that will affect you for years to come.
A license suspension is only the tip of the iceberg, and that is why all drivers should contact an attorney before entering a plea. In addition to having your license taken away, you might be given a lengthy jail sentence as well. Once you have completed that sentence, you will then need to take additional sobriety classes and complete community service hours. After all of these expenses have been taken into account, many drivers pay $15,000 or more for a single DUI. They will also have these charges on their records for ten years or longer, and that is going to impact their career path and loan options. Your record will make it difficult to lease a new car, buy a new home, or event rent an apartment.
Reinstating Your License
During your initial consultation with the attorney, you will learn how to get your license back after DUI arrest or conviction. Those who are worried about the initial legal fees should use DUIWise’s free search tool to find a local attorney who offers free or low-cost consultations. The process of getting your license back might seem confusing, but these attorneys are trained to help their clients every step of the way. In as little as a few weeks, you could be back on the road as a legal and insured driver.
Is A DUI / DWI A Felony?
Every U.S. state as well as Washington D.C. outlaw driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. People who are arrested for this offense face any number of legal and monetary consequences, all of which are designed to deter drivers from reoffending.
However, the severity of the punishment that you might receive for driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance depends on the nature in which the DUI charge is prosecuted in court. You can act in your own defense by understanding When is a DUI a felony and when is it a misdemeanor in the eyes of the law.
Misdemeanor versus Felony DUI Charges
Federal law mandates that all 50 states plus the District of Columbia set the legal blood alcohol content, or BAC, below 0.08 percent. Motorists whose BACs are below this limit are not considered to be inebriated and thus will not be arrested on a DWI charge.
If your BAC is over that limit, however, the law will deem that you are riving while intoxicated and thus should be subjected to any number of field sobriety tests. Depending on how well you perform on these tests, you could be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony DUI charges.
However, you may ask yourself When is a DUI a felony and when is it considered to be a misdemeanor in the state in which you live or were arrested? Is A DUI A Felony just because the law enforcement officer says it is or is there another standard by which states must adhere?
As mentioned, most states will charge you with a misdemeanor unless certain criteria apply to your offense. You should learn what these criteria are so that you can avoid felony DUI charges.
Felony DUI Charge Criteria
Under what circumstances Is a DUI a felony and when is it a misdemeanor? You could face felony charges for riving while intoxicated if you commit any of other offenses along with your DUI.
BAC of 0.16 Percent or Higher
Depending on the state in which you live or were pulled over, you could face a felony DUI charge if your BAC is 0.16 percent or higher at the time of your arrest. Many states will charge you with a felony if your blood alcohol content is at least twice if not higher than the standard per se BAC of 0.08 percent.
If your BAC is less than twice the legal limit, however, you might be charged with a misdemeanor. To avoid any DWI charge, your BAC must be below that 0.08 percent limit.
You could be charged with felony driving while drunk or high if you inflict bodily harm on someone. Whether it be a passenger in your car, a pedestrian, or another motorist on the roadway, if you harm a person while you are driving while intoxicated, you could face felony charges in court.
To be charged with a felony DWI, you must be the person at fault for the bodily harm, however. If another motorist runs into your car despite the fact that you are drunk, the other motorist will be the one getting ticketed and possibly arrested. You in turn will more than likely be arrested for misdemeanor DUI.
It goes without saying that if you kill anyone during the commission of your DUI, you will face felony charges as well as other charges like vehicular manslaughter or homicide. The judge will not allow you to get away with only being charged with a misdemeanor if someone dies because of your DUI.
Prior DUI Convictions
You could be charged with a felony if you have prior DWI charges and convictions on your driving and criminal record. Many judges are rather lenient with first-time offenders as long as they have not inflicted bodily harm. First-time DUI offenders typically get off with a light sentence, community service, or a modest fine.
However, judges are not quite as understanding if these offenders go on to recommit the same crime again. If you have prior convictions on your record, chances are that you will face felony charges rather than misdemeanor once you go before the judge.
Those felony charges could be levied as soon as your second DUI. Likewise, the punishment you face could be more severe and include a lengthier stint in jail, a steeper fine, and perhaps even your drivers license being revoked or suspended.
Children in the Car
Law enforcement and judges also have little patience for people who drive drunk with children in the vehicle with them. You not only put your life and the lives of other motorists and pedestrians at risk as you drive drunk. You also jeopardize the lives of children who look to you for their safety and well-being.
As such, even if it is your first DUI, you will likely be charged with a felony instead of a misdemeanor. The felony charge will result in you being punished with a heavy fine, 30 days or longer in county or city jail, and perhaps a suspension or revocation of your license to drive.
Driving on a Restricted, Suspended, or Revoked License
Finally, you will probably be charged with a felony DUI if you are arrested for this offense while driving on a license that has been restricted, suspended, or revoked. The court already implemented one of these license punishments because you already broke the law while driving. Adding another offense to those punishments will not endear you to the police nor the judge and likely result in you being charged with a felony.
When you are charged with a felony DWI, your future is in jeopardy of being negatively impacted for at least a month if not longer. When you want to avoid the harshest penalties and figure out how to move on with your life after the judge decides your case, you need a skilled DUI lawyer to help you build a defense case to take to court.
Why Hire a DUI Lawyer
Why should you get a DUI lawyer on retainer? Simply put, you stand little chance of winning your case if you represent yourself in court. Any of these circumstances put you at a disadvantage before a judge or jury who may be more concerned with the danger that you put yourself and others in while you were driving under the influence.
A lawyer can build a defense that could help you avoid harsh sentences and possibly even get the charges against you reduced or dropped. Before you go to court, you need to get a skilled lawyer on retainer so that you have someone ready to advocate for you during legal action that could be difficult to endure at best.
How can you find a DUI lawyer ready to take your case? You should start by asking people you know for a referral or going online to read reviews of local DUI attorneys. By law, you must be given the chance to hire a DUI lawyer to represent you before you go to court. If you cannot afford to hire one, you are entitled to have one appointed for you.
Every state plus the District of Columbia have DUI laws on the books that categorize this crime as either a misdemeanor or felony. People who are charged with felony DWI often face the harshest and lengthiest of penalties that could range from a jail sentence to a revoked license.
Because your very future could be at stake, it is important that you know what circumstances elevate a DUI from a misdemeanor to felony status. You also should recognize why it is crucial that you do not go to court without a skilled and assertive DWI attorney by your side. A good DWI lawyer could help you protect your future and avoid the worst felony DUI punishments.