The responsibilities associated with a California DUI conviction can be rather daunting. One the more feared tasks is the requirement of having to install the ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device, however, is not required after all California DUI convictions. Whether a person will be required to install an ignition interlock device depends on several things.
Before we talk about when an ignition interlock device is required, let’s first talk about what the ignition interlock device is. In short, the ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer that is installed into the dash of a vehicle and connected to the ignition. The driver of the vehicle must provide a breath sample with a blood alcohol content reading under 0.08 percent before the device allows the vehicle to be started. Once the vehicle is started, the driver must provide breath samples at random times to while the vehicle is operational.
Following a California DUI conviction, there are a number of things that a judge may have a person do or complete as a condition of probation. I use the word “may” because some conditions are mandatory and some conditions are discretionary. One of the discretionary terms of probation that a judge may impose on a person following a California DUI conviction is the installation of an ignition interlock device.
As a discretionary term, judges sometimes require the ignition interlock device for a person convicted of a California DUI who has also suffered prior DUI convictions, someone who had a high blood alcohol content, or someone who refused a chemical test following the DUI arrest.
However, in January of 2010 Assembly Bill 91 became law and made the installation of an ignition interlock device mandatory in four counties as part of a new pilot program aimed at reducing drunk driving repeat offenses. The counties affected by the law were Los Angeles, Alameda, Tulare, and Sacramento.
The law requiring the ignition interlock device in the abovementioned counties, California Vehicle Code section 23700, in part reads:
"Before a driver’s license may be issued, reissued, or returned to a person after a suspension…of that person’s driving privilege that requires the installation of an ignition interlock device…"
The length of time that a person must have the ignition interlock device installed for depends on how many prior DUI convictions the person has had. A first time offense carries a 5-month installation period. A second time offense carries a 12-month installation period. A third time offense carries a 24-month installation period. A fourth time offense carries a 36-month installation period.
The law provides for an exception to the pilot program for those who do not own a car or otherwise have access to one. If that is the case, a person must complete and submit an “exemption form” to the California DMV. A person can then completely avoid the ignition interlock device by waiting out their suspension plus the period during which they would have had the ignition interlock device installed. If, however, the person obtains a vehicle in that time, they must have the ignition interlock device installed.
The pilot program was set to end as of January 1, 2016, at which time the California DMV was to report to the legislature on the effectiveness of the pilot program in reducing repeat drunk driving offenses in those counties. However, late last year Senate Bill 61 extended the pilot program until July 1, 2017.
Depending of the data collected as a result of the pilot program, it may not be long before we see the installation of ignition interlock devices as a mandatory condition of probation for all California DUI convictions.