In 2012, 25% of intoxicated drivers with a BAC of 0.08 to 0.14 who were involved in a fatal crash were repeat offenders. For drivers with a BAC of more than 0.15, that number jumped to 75%. In an attempt to cut down on the number of repeat offenses, especially among those who drive while seriously intoxicated, North Carolina requires certain offenders to install an Ignition Interlock Device in their vehicles.
Driving While Impaired
If you’re pulled over because the police think you may be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the police will measure your blood alcohol content (BAC). If you refuse, the officer will most likely have probable cause to arrest you for DWI and then has the right to give you a Breathalyzer or chemical blood test anyway. If you’re arrested and refuse to take the test, you’ll lose your license for a year.
There are many different consequences and penalties of a DWI conviction, but an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) is only required for a driver that is convicted of DWI with a 0.15% BAC or higher or if the driver has had more than one DWI offense within 7 years.
Ignition Interlock Device
An ignition interlock device is a small device attached to the dashboard of your car. It’s wired into your ignition and contains an alcohol testing machine similar to a Breathalyzer. It blocks the signal from your ignition to your starter until you take (and pass) the breath test. It will also require breath tests at random times while you’re driving, to prevent someone else from taking the initial test for you. If you fail the breath test, your car will not start (or will shut down, if you’re already driving) and you’ll have to get a maintenance person from the device provider to reset the device – otherwise, you’re locked out.
For your first DWI offense in North Carolina, you’ll be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device if you are convicted of a DWI with a BAC of over 0.15% – nearly twice the legal limit. You’ll also be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device if you’re convicted of more than 1 DWI within the span of 7 years, regardless of your BAC. Remember that subsequent offenders can be convicted of a DWI with a BAC as low as 0.04%, so one beer before you drive home could result in an Ignition Interlock Device.
Cost of an Ignition Interlock Device
Aside from the inconvenience and social stigma of an Ignition Interlock Device, it’s an expensive penalty. You’ll be renting the device for as long as you’re required to have it in your car. You’ll have to pay for monthly rent and maintenance, plus fees for every time you blow a positive BAC and get locked out. The North Carolina Department of Transportation gives you a choice of three Ignition Interlock providers: Monitech, ALCOLOCK, and Smart Start. They have similar pricing structures – you’re looking at about $70 for installation in the first month. Then you have to take it in every month to get it serviced for about $75. Removal is typically free. If you fail the breath test on your Ignition Interlock Device or miss a maintenance appointment, you’ll be locked out and won’t be able to start your car. On top of that, you’ll have to pay a fee of $15 to $55, depending on the reason for the lockout, to have the device reset so you can use your car again.
On top of the regular fees, Ignition Interlock Devices are somewhat delicate and often malfunction or break down completely. Every time that happens, you’ll have to take it in and pay for repairs.
Can I avoid an Ignition Interlock Device?
If you’re ordered to install an Ignition Interlock Device, there’s no way around it. In order to get limited driving privileges or have your license reinstated, you’ll have to provide proof of installation. Without proof that you did your time with an Ignition Interlock Device, you won’t be able to get your license back. You can’t wait it out – no interlock, lose your North Carolina driving privileges.
What should I do if I’m being charged with a DWI in North Carolina?
A DWI is a serious charge with serious consequences, both physical and financial. If you’re being charged with a DWI, reach out to an experienced attorney to discuss your case and learn your rights. We’ll fight to make sure your case is handled fairly and any penalties are as minor as possible.