One of the most feared consequences of the California DUI is the ignition interlock device. Fortunately, the ignition interlock device is not required for all California DUI convictions. Whether a person will have to install an ignition interlock device will depend on a few things.
Before I talk about whether a person will have to install an ignition interlock device, let me remind you all of what exactly it 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 below a preset limit between 0.02 and 0.04 percent, depending on the state, before the vehicle can be started. Once the vehicle is started, the driver must provide breath samples at random times while the vehicle is operational.
In most counties in California, the ignition interlock device is a discretionary term of DUI probation. This means that a judge can order installation of the ignition interlock device if he or she feels as though it would be an appropriate punishment for a DUI. Usually this happens when the driver has 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.