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Ignition Interlock Devices in Virginia

An ignition interlock system is a device that (1) connects the ignition to a breath analyzer, (2) prevents the vehicle from starting when the driver’s BAC is above 0.02, (3) has the ability to retest at random and stores the BAC electronically at start up, attempted start up and at random. These random tests are called a rolling retest. This device may be installed in one’s vehicle even after the first DUI/DWI offense; however it will definitely in installed in one’s car if they have been convicted of more than one DUI/DWI or if upon arrest the BAC of the accused is 0.15 or above, as a condition to having a restricted license or the re-issuance of a license. One must pay the fee to have the system installed in the car as well as all fees associated with maintaining and appropriately calibrating the system every thirty days. Failure to have the system installed in a timely manner and to have the system maintained and calibrated as required will result in the revocation of one’s driving privileges altogether.

Also, if ordered by the court to have such a system installed it must be done in all vehicles owned and registered to the person whom the order pertains. The ignition interlock system shall remain installed for so long as one’s license is suspended or restricted and a copy of the order will be filed with the DMV. While one has the interlock system installed in their vehicle they shall be under orders from the court not to drive or operate any vehicle which is not equipped with such a device. There is sometimes an exception for those who use a company vehicle for their employment, in which case the judge may allow the accused to drive a vehicle owned by an employer strictly for employment purposes. Further, it is a Class1 misdemeanor for anyone to start a vehicle with such a system installed for the purpose of providing the motor vehicle to one prohibited from operating the vehicle without such device. It is also a Class 1 misdemeanor to knowingly provide someone whom is prohibited from driving or operating a motor vehicle unequipped with the interlock system a vehicle not containing such device.

Before an ignition interlock device can be installed in any motor vehicle it must comply with all regulations set forth by the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP). The regulations which the VASAP has adopted state that the device (1) cannot interfere with the safe operation of the vehicle, (2) limit the probability that the system can be bypassed or tampered with and to provide evidence of such activity, (3) must accurately test one’s BAC and be calibrated according to specification set out by the manufacturer of the device, (4) produce accurate and reliable results when used in an unsupervised environment, (5) be capable of providing an evidence BAC reading at every attempted ignition, rolling retest, ignition and a record of any time someone attempts to circumvent or tamper with the device, (6)  minimize the inconvenience to anyone else who must use the vehicle, (7) must be manufactured and distributed by a company capable of installing, training, servicing, maintaining and must meet all safety standards set out by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, (8) operate properly in different situations and a range of motor vehicle designs, (9) manufactured by company which has liability insurance to cover an amount set by the VASAP which must include products liability and installation and maintenance errors, (10) electronically log the users experience and be able to transmit this information to the agency in charge of device, and (11) be capable of performing a rolling retest. Further, every device installed in a motor vehicle must be equipped with a warning stating that tampering with or trying to circumvent the device will be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor and may be subjected to a fine, jail time or both.

Also, the above regulations sets up a fund payable to the company charged with installing such devices in the event the court finds someone to be indigent and unable to pay the fee for installation. This statute also makes it unlawful for anyone to sell or lease an ignition interlock device unless the system has been approved by the VASAP and includes the warning stated above. Finally, a company who has been approved to install this device must have access to a 24 hour toll free help line.


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