New York DWI–Ignition Interlock Device–Part 1

In August of 2010, the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law was amended as part of Leandra’s Law to include a provision that in all DWI convictions, the motorist is required to install and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID). An IID is a device which prevents a car ignition from starting if the operator of the car has a blood alcohol level of .025% or above when blowing into the device. Alcohol based mouthwashes such as Listerine are not recommended when the driver has an IID in their vehicle, as their use can lead to a positive alcohol finding despite the fact that the driver was not drinking alcohol. Clients must also be informed that if they drink alcohol the night before, and must drive to work early the next morning, they must be very careful to make sure that their alcohol intake is completed well in advance of entering their vehicle the next morning. Otherwise, there can be a positive alcohol reading, leading to serious consequences, despite the fact that the person was not drinking alcohol for many hours prior to entering their vehicle.

Under the law, an IID must be installed in all motor vehicles which the defendant either owns or operates. Thus, if the person convicted of a DWI is married or has children living at home who own motor vehicles, unless the person can prove to the Court’s satisfaction that he or she will not have access to the other motor vehicles in his or her household, the ignition interlock must be installed in all of the vehicles! The IID is required by law to be installed in the motorist’s car for at least six months, but in practical effect, all Courts in my experience are ordering that the device remain in the vehicle for a minimum of one year.

It is important to note that the IID must be installed in any DWI convictions, including common law DWI (by the officer’s observation of Field Sobriety tests, alcohol on breath, slurring words, staggering, loss of balance, bloodshot or watery eyes, for example), per se DWI (by chemical test evidence, including a breathalyzer, blood or urine tests), felony DWI, and aggravated DWI. Aggravated DWI is charged when the driver has a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) or 0.18% or above. However, the IID does not have to be installed on a DWAI conviction or plea (Driving While Ability Impaired), which is a traffic infraction, and not a crime as is a DWI.

When the Court sentences a driver on a DWI, they must report to the Department of Probation for direction on installation of the IID, which can only be performed at specifically authorized facilities. The driver must then return to Court with proof that the ignition interlock was installed in all vehicles which he or she owns or operates. The driver is required to pay the cost of installation of the device, as well as maintenance of the device during the one year period. The maintenance fees are approximately $75.00 per month or slightly higher.

In Part 2 of this article, we will discuss possible waiver of IID fees, the penalties for tampering with the ignition interlock or having someone else blow into the device, and the rules governing employer owned vehicles for motorists ordered to install an ignition interlock in their personal vehicles.

If you are charged with a DWI, felony DWI, another crime, or a traffic infraction, contact the Westchester County Criminal Defense Lawyers online or toll free at (914) 428-7386 for a free initial consultation with an experienced litigator to discuss your legal rights and options.