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What is an ignition interlock device, and when might you need one?

After an evening out drinking with your friends, the last thing you want is for the night’s festivities to come to a crashing halt with a DUI arrest. If that does happen, though, you might face the possibility of all sorts of penalties, including the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device in all of your cars. What are these devices, and what makes a judge decide to order the use of one?

What they do

An ignition interlock device is a machine attached to a breathalyzer. If installed in your car, you will have to blow into it each time you want to start your car. If the machine detects a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05% or higher in your breath, it will not allow the ignition to start the engine.

Ignition interlock devices are usually installed because a judge ordered it after a DUI conviction. The driver typically has to install one in every car that they regularly drive, at their own expense. They have to keep the devices in the cars for a specified time limit, or until the judge says they can take them out.

When you might need one

In New Jersey, the penalty for a first-time DUI convection depends upon your blood alcohol content at the time of the arrest.

If your BAC was above the legal limit, but below 0.15%, the judge has discretion to order the installation of an ignition interlock device for six months to a year if they believe that your situation calls for one. If your BAC was at 0.15% or above, the ignition interlock device will be mandatory.

A device will also be mandatory if it is your second DUI. The judge could require use of the device for up to three years on a second offense.

An ignition interlock device can be very annoying and inconvenient to have in your car, especially when you’re in a hurry. But it is a much preferrable penalty to jail time, fines, and further drivers’ license suspensions.