Frequently Asked Questions
About Ignition Interlocks
Ignition Interlock Installation
Ignition Interlocks Operation
Ignition Interlocks & The Law
A Florida approved ignition interlock device is an in-car breath screening apparatus that requires the driver to pass a breath-alcohol test before his motor vehicle will start. Typically, it is located inside the passenger compartment, near the driver’s seat, and interconnected with five wires inside the vehicle’s steering column. Fla Administrative Code Rule 15-A-9003(3) requires that a minimum of 1.5 liters of breath be introduced through the mouthpiece and run through the instrument before the alcohol content is measured. Once the driver blows into a mouthpiece, the device will determine if his breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) meets or exceeds the pre-set limit of .025 BrAC or greater. If the driver’s BrAC meets or exceeds the prohibited level, the ignition interlock will effectively prevent the vehicle from being started. Back to Top
A typical installation in your car or truck will take the service provider about two hours. However some luxury vehicles and those employing push button starters necessitate additional time and effort. Although installation of an interlock on a motorcycle is permitted in some states (i.e., Oregon, Wisconsin, Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska and Washington) that is not the case in the “Sunshine State.” Florida Administrative Code Section 15A-9003(17) strictly prohibits interlocks from being installed on any motorcycle, bicycle, motorized scooter, electric personal assistive mobility device or moped. A vehicle installation normally requires that five wires be hard wired into your steering column. It is typically not necessary to perform any work within your engine compartment. When the installation is complete, you will observe a coiled black wire connected to the electronic “head” and mouth piece. The electronics can easily be unplugged and taken with you into your home or place of business. In the alternative, some motorists cover the device with an article of clothing. Back to Top
There are currently three approved interlock models in Florida. “Smart Start” offers model “SSI 20/30.” Alcolock offers model “Alcolock LR” and “Guardian Interlock” offers “AMS 2000.” All of these ignition interlock devices implement a “rolling test.” This means that after successfully starting the vehicle, they call on the driver to blow again after he has driven some distance or time. An initial retest is required within the first five minutes of starting the vehicle. Additional random retests begin to occur between 15 to 30 minutes later. The driver only has up to three minutes to comply with the required retest. This “rolling test” feature is intended to prevent the driver from having someone else blow into the device to get the vehicle started (commonly referred to as “curbside assistance”). The retesting is also intended to prevent the driver from consuming alcohol while actually operating the motor vehicle. Back to Top
If a breath sample introduced into the interlock meets or exceeds the preset “fail point,” the vehicle will not start. If a driver fails to provide a breath sample or his BrAC exceeds the pre-set limit during a “rolling retest”, the engine of the vehicle will continue to run. An ignition interlock device cannot turn the engine off once it is running. However, if an interlock detects alcohol during a “rolling retest,” in most cases the device will cause the vehicle’s horn to sound and the headlights to flash. These “events” are recorded by the device and will be revealed during the “monitoring check” down load of data. Back to Top
Drivers with an Ignition Interlock restriction (P) associated with their restricted driving privilege must be careful to avoid introducing a breath sample that results data recordation of an event where alcohol was detected. A future downloading of data will of course place the DHSMV on notice that you attempted to start the vehicle after consuming alcohol. This could place your driving privilege into jeopardy. Your Ignition Interlock is set by the manufacture to record a temporary lockout if it detects a breath test reading of .025% or higher or any lesser amount otherwise specified by the judge in your case. This percentage was reduced from .05% by the Florida Legislature and signed into law effective July 1st, 2013. As a result, it now takes less alcohol to trigger a lockout than it did in the past. The reduction came about after a recommendation from the NHTSA and is codified in Florida Statute Section 316.1937(1). Back to Top
Florida ignition interlock devices contain a computer chip that records the date, time, and BrAC of the driver each time a breath sample is obtained. Additionally, each breath sample submitted by the driver is internally recorded by the Interlock device. During the monthly “monitoring appointment” the data is downloaded by the installation/monitoring center who in turn provides the information to the DHSMV. Back to Top
Ignition interlocks record all of your daily interaction with the device. This “data” is routinely downloaded each month to the State of Florida, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motorist Compliance. Each time you access your ignition interlock, it will collect and record a significant amount of information into its “data storage system.” These “events” include
- Each breath test result (This includes both your initial test to start the vehicle, “timed retests,” and subsequent “rolling retests”);
- Your failure to submit a breath test after being requested by the device to do so;
- Each occasion in which your vehicle’s engine was started or stopped;
- Any efforts to tamper with or circumvent the ignition interlock device;
- Your failure to turn the vehicle’s engine off after a failed “rolling” test;
- The total period of time your vehicle was used on each occasion it was driven;
- The mileage your vehicle was driven and the total mileage since your last data download;
- Each occasion that you experienced a “vehicle lockout;” and
- Whether you employed the emergency override feature.
The information is compiled in the form of a “Driver Activity Summary Report.” These data logs can serve as incriminating evidence of “events” that could form a basis for the termination of your driving privileges. After your initial installation, it will be necessary for you to revisit your interlock provider each month for a “monitoring check.” The purpose of these visits is to download all of the event data associated with your use of the ignition interlock. It is also an opportunity for the service technician to download your photographic images and at times, to check the calibration of your interlock device. Each of the three service providers will conduct the “monitoring check in accordance with their own administrative procedures. Accordingly, it is not the job of the service technician to ascertain whether you are in compliance with the interlock program. With some service providers, the monthly data is only reviewable at the company’s corporate headquarters by an individual possessing a “secured access role.” It is at this separate and remote corporate headquarter location that an official “compliance review” is made. However, other service providers review the data right at the service center. Regardless of which practice is employed, when appropriate, a “violation report” is electronically forwarded to the Florida Department of Highway Safety, Division of Driver’s Licenses. Drive-Through Service Some interlock providers have you drive into their garage and permit you to remain in your vehicle while the monitoring procedure takes place. The service center technician will roll a utility cart up to your vehicle’s driver side window. Mounted on the cart is a web based PC and calibration hardware. The service center technician will wire-connect the handset of your interlock to his computer. The proprietary software will thereafter download all of the above listed “events” to a secure Internet-based corporate computer. The technician will also securely affix a rubber connector to the mouthpiece of your interlock. This connection incorporates a prominent dry gas regulator and a lengthy hose which leads to a large cylinder container in the service center garage. The cylinder is filled with a certified “ethanol dry gas standard.” The “standard” consists of a mixture of alcohol and gas which produces a known alcohol vapor concentration. The manufacturing source of the “standard” is required to be traceable to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It is through this “simulated” breath testing that the proper calibration of your interlock is checked. Waiting Room Service Other service providers offer an air-conditioned waiting room with complimentary television. You park your vehicle in a convenient parking lot and check-in with the customer service representative. A technician drives your vehicle into the garage and removes the detachable handset of your ignition interlock device. It is then connected to proprietary hardware for the purpose of downloading images and event data from the memory chip in the interlock. The calibration and purging of your ignition interlock is then accomplished utilizing a simulator pump and “wet bath” simulator system. The technician will use premixed and certified alcohol reference solutions. These standards are also traceable to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. In both circumstances, the monthly “monitoring check” is accomplished in a relatively short period of time. Your next monthly service appointment is programed into your interlock by the customer service representative and the device will subsequently provide you with friendly reminders as that date approaches.
Will I be required to have an ignition interlock device?
Florida Statutes §316.193 mandates that upon conviction for DUI, the Court shall, in certain circumstances, order the driver to have an ignition interlock device installed prior to their permanent or restricted drivers license reinstatement. The following persons are subject to the ignition interlock requirement: After a 1st time DUI conviction if the driver’s breath or blood alcohol level at the time of his original DUI offense registered a .15 or greater. F.S. §316.193(4). After a 1st time DUI conviction if a person under 18 years of age was a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the original DUI offense. F.S. §316.193(4). All multiple offenders seeking reinstatement. F.S. §316.193(2)(a)(3). Note: Under Florida Statute Section 316.1937(1), judges retain the discretion to order an Ignition Interlock for any driver convicted of an DUI offense, even where their breath or blood alcohol level was below a .15. Click here to read our article on the availability of Hardship Licenses for Multiple Offenders. Click here to read our comprehensive article on DUI Hardship License Tips.
For a first time DUI conviction, (where there was a .15 BrAC or greater, or in the alternative, the defendant had a passenger in his vehicle under eighteen years of age), the court shall order the installation of an ignition interlock device at the Defendant’s sole expense on all vehicles at the time he qualifies for a permanent or restricted license. Florida Statute §316.193(4)(c). For a second conviction the interlock device must be installed at the Defendant’s sole expense at the time he qualifies for a permanent or restricted license, for a period of at least one year. F.S. §316.193(2)(a)3. For a second conviction (where there was a .15 BrAC or greater or in the alternative the defendant had a passenger in his vehicle under eighteen years of age), the interlock device must be installed at the Defendant’s sole expense at the time he qualifies for a permanent or restricted license, for a period of at least two years. F.S. §316.193(4)(c). Upon a third conviction, regardless of the age of the prior, the court shall for a period of not less than two years order the installation of an ignition interlock device at the Defendant’s sole expense at the time he qualifies for a permanent or restricted license. F.S. §316.193(2)(b). As of October 1, 2010, a fourth conviction for DUI will carry a five year ignition interlock requirement. The interlock must be installed at the Defendant’s sole expense at the time he qualifies for a permanent or restricted license. F.S. §322.2715(3)(c). Back to Top
If your DUI conviction mandates an Ignition Interlock installation (Certain first time offenders & all multiple offenders) then DHSMV will never reinstate your privilege to drive until such time as you show compliance. Your problem cannot be resolved by simply waiting out your full period of suspension prior to making application for your drivers license reinstatement. Unless and until you show supporting documentation that confirms installation of an approved Interlock device, you will not be eligible for drivers license reinstatement on either a restricted (hardship license) or fully reinstated (unrestricted) basis. In the vast majority of cases, installation of an Interlock device is not a condition of probation, but rather a necessary prerequisite to drivers license reinstatement. Therefore, although a person might successfully serve out their probationary sentence without having first secured an Ignition Interlock, their failure to have the device installed will nevertheless forever preclude their ability to lawfully operate a motor vehicle. “Just because the law requires installation of the device, does not mean that everybody is going to comply.” – Attorney Frank Russo, St. Petersburg Times, “Car Lock Will Stall Drunken Drivers” December 17, 2003 Back to Top
When you have your privilege to drive reinstated after an Ignition Interlock installation, the front side of your Florida Drivers License will reflect a “P” restriction. Stated simply…it is a criminal offense if you operate a motor vehicle in violation of your drivers license restriction. You are subject to immediate arrest and the possible impoundment of your car. A conviction in court for this offense includes penalties that may entail fines, probation or incarceration within the county jail. See Florida Statute Section 322.273. Consequences likewise include the revocation of your privilege to drive. In other words, if the Department determines that you abused your restricted driving privilege, by getting caught operating a vehicle that was not properly equipped with an Interlock device, they will more than likely revoke your driving privilege. Back to Top
As with most DHSMV provisions, the driver is the one who will bear the cost of an ignition interlock device. The service providers will typically install your ignition interlock free of charge. However, there could be a surcharge of $50.00 or more if your vehicle runs on diesel fuel or if a service light is lit at the time of the interlock installation. The fee to lease the equipment will cost $95.00.per month. There is no charge to have the interlock device removed from your vehicle, so long as you successfully completed the statutorily prescribed period of time. There can be promotional incentives or discounts offered in an effort to persuade you to choose the services of one Interlock provider over that of their competitors. Sometimes, our law office is able to provide clients with a discount coupon entitling them to a waiver of the installation fee and a reduction of the first month’s monitoring costs. Method of payment: It is important that you contact the service provider and inquire of their approved methods of payment. For example, we spoke to a service provider who will only accept a Visa or Master Card (credit cards, debit cards, or pre-paid cards.) They indicated that they would not accept American Express, Discover, checks or cash payments. Back to Top
When enacting ignition interlock legislation, Florida lawmakers recognized the high cost associated with these devices. In an effort to make ignition interlocks more affordable, Florida Statute §316.1937(2)(d), has a provision written into it that may provide some relief. The court can make an inquiry as to whether the defendant in fact cannot afford the cost of the ignition interlock system. If the court determines that the person truly cannot afford these costs, then the Judge has the authority to order that any standardized fines otherwise associated with the DUI off ense be allocated to defray the costs of installation. Essentially, a portion of the fines and court costs that the defendant would normally pay might be used toward the expenses associated with the installation and maintenance of this device. Back to Top
There is a strong argument that can be made that the use of an ignition interlock device greatly reduces the risk of recidivism (See next question below.) Thus, greater safety on our highways was obviously a motivating force behind these new laws. However, an investigation by our office revealed the following three factors we believe may have greatly contributed to the passage of Florida’s Ignition Interlock legislation. Back to Top 1. Florida wanted to avoid losing valuable Federal-Aid Highway Funds: In 1998, the United States Federal government passed the Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21). This act directed states to pass particular DUI legislation directed at drivers with more than one DUI or face the loss of Federal-Aid Highway Funds. A subsequent modification of TEA-21 occurred through the TEA-21 Restoration Act. Section 164 of this later legislation specifically directed states to require ignition interlock devices. Accordingly, those states without ignition interlock laws stand to lose a portion of their Federal-Aid Highway funds. 2. Strong lobbying efforts on the part of the ignition interlock industry: Mandatory ignition interlock devices in Florida represent a great opportunity for those businesses that employ this unique trade. See: New drunk law spawns biz opportunities. Business Weekly. August 9, 2002 American Business Journals Inc. 3. Public recognition of both Senators and Representatives: Any positive recognition is deemed beneficial to those hopeful to remain in public office. Such is the case when on June 11, 2002, the Hillsborough County Florida Chapter of MADD publicly honored Senator Locke Burt, Representative David Simmons, and Representative Johnnie Byrd for sponsoring the bill that enacted Florida’s new ignition interlock legislation. One publication we reviewed speculated that the media probably required wide angle lenses to photograph Governor Bush (and the numerous supporters of the bill) when the Governor actually signed the ignition interlock legislation into law.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that there is clear evidence that the ignition interlock device, installed in the offender’s vehicle, is substantially more effective than license suspension in deterring DUI recidivism. It also found a direct correlation between the amount of time the device was required in the vehicle and the number of times the driver was re-arrested for a new DUI offense. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol abuse published an extensive study entitled Blow and Go: The Breath Analyzed Ignition Interlock Device as a Technological Response to DUI, Volume 29, Issue 1. This 3-year recidivism study of the ignition interlock revealed 17.5% recidivism rates for the interlock group compared to 25.3% recidivism rates for the non-interlock group, a 31% decrease. Multiple offenders and younger (under 30 years of age) offenders had significantly lower rates of subsequent arrests. The multi-offenders in the comparison group were more than twice as likely as the interlock group to have a subsequent conviction within 3 years. The difference was nearly the same for the under 30 age group. There was almost no difference for first offenders. The International Council on Alcohol Drugs and Traffic Safety likewise published a position paper in July of 2001 on this subject. Their study concluded that “breath alcohol ignition interlock devices, when embedded in a comprehensive monitoring and service program lead to 40-95% reductions in the rate of repeat DWI offenses of convicted DWI offenders.” The University of Maryland, in it’s 1997 report entitled “The Effects of Alcohol Ignition Interlock License Restrictions on Multiple Alcohol Offenders: A Randomized Trial in Maryland” also addressed the issue of recidivism rates among ignition interlock users. For the study, Maryland researchers randomly assigned a group of over 1,300 repeat DUI offenders to either continue alcohol treatment or treatment coupled with an interlock program. After a year, the study concluded that only 2.4 percent of those in the interlock program committed an alcohol related offense. The violation rate of the group not using the ignition interlock devices was 6.7 percent, almost 3 times as high as the other group. One of the Maryland researchers commented that being in the interlock program reduced the risk of committing an alcohol related offense in the first year by about 65 percent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that attaching an interlock to a car for a year after its operator is convicted of driving while intoxicated would reduce recidivism by an estimated 75% and alcohol-related fatalities by 7%. Back to Top
Most states have passed laws requiring ignition interlock devices for DUI offenders. Over the years the constitutionality of such laws have been challenged before the courts. For instance, on March 6, 2002 the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a lower court’s ruling that ignition interlock devices do not violate equal protection. Requiring such devices to promote public safety was found by the Court to be “reasonably related” to keeping intoxicated drivers of the road. Commonwealth v. Etheredge, 794 A.2d 391, (PA Super, 2002).
- In 26 states, anyone convicted of a DUI, including first-time offenders, must install an ignition interlocks prior to drivers license reinstatement.
- An additional 13 states (Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Rhode Wyoming and Wisconsin Island require interlocks for first-time offenders only with high breath alcohol levels, (usually 0.15 percent or higher) and for all multiple offenders.
- Six states, (Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, California, Georgia, Idaho and Ohio) require interlocks only for multiple offenders.
- Nevada requires the device only for high-BAC offenders.
- Currently, the District of Columbia, along with four states have no laws requiring ignition interlocks. Th is includes (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Indiana.).
- It is a violation of the law to tamper with or circumvent the operation of an ignition interlock device. Florida Statute §316.1937(6)(a).
- It is a violation of the law to have someone else blow into your ignition interlock for the purpose of starting your vehicle. In fact, merely “requesting” or “soliciting” someone else to blow into the device is a violation of law. Florida Statute §316.1937(6)(b).
- It is a violation of the law if you blow into an ignition interlock device for someone else for the purpose of starting their vehicle. F.S. §316.1937(6)(c).
- It is a violation of the law to lend your unequipped vehicle to someone whom you know is operating under an ignition interlock restriction. F.S. §3161937(6)(d).
- It is a violation of the law to attempt to borrow or lease another person’s motor vehicle without first informing them that your driving privilege has an interlock restriction. F.S. §3161937(6)(d).
There are always going to be motorists who attempt to cheat or bypass the ignition interlock system. But, before you consider involving yourself in this activity, be forewarned that tampering with your device is a violation of Florida law. Likewise, getting caught will lead to the revocation of any and all driving privileges. You should also know that today’s interlock devices are designed with highly sophisticated anti-circumvention security. In the past, some offenders have solicited friends or relatives to blow into the ignition interlock. However, this practice was largely eliminated after interlock manufacturers began incorporating an automated windshield mounted camera to photograph the person providing the breath sample. Other drivers implemented methods utilizing “stored” clean breath samples (within balloons or canisters). In the alternative, homemade filtration devices were employed in an effort to remove incriminating alcohol from the breath sample prior to it entering the interlock mouth piece. Today, a filtering device is commercially marketed over the Internet. However, its manufacturer clearly admits on their website that the filtration device is “For Novelty Use Only.” Its effectiveness has been called into question by online posts and Youtube demonstrations. Ignition interlock manufacturers have been successful in thwarting these tampering efforts. Several proprietary features have been designed to screen out bogus breath samples. One of these features, called “voice-tone” recognition, involves having the driver blow continuously for three seconds, then adding a “hum” to the blow for the balance of the test. The entire sample must be provided without any interruption to the flow of air. This requirement is designed to confirm that the sample is being legitimately produced by a human being and not through a mechanical or otherwise alternative artificial source. Our office is aware of an individual who had a mechanic install an independent and isolated second ignition switch between the car battery and the vehicle’s starter. This enable the driver to start the vehicle without the need to blow into the interlock device. All went well until he reported for his monthly monitoring appointment with the service provider. The sophisticated download of data quickly revealed that the car had been started independent of the ignition interlock device. This led to the discovery of the second ignition switch by the interlock technician. To further guard against tampering, service providers hardwire their interlocks to the vehicle in a tamper resistant fashion. Standard installation procedures incorporate other tamper resistant features:
- The soldering of all wire connections;
- The use of tamper-proof screws;
- Heat shrink material that covers all connections with branded printing;
- Sensing systems designed to reject bogus breath samples and to uncover filtered or disguised breath test samples; and
- Recordation of any time that power to the unit was disconnected or interrupted.
A warning label is affixed to each interlock device that reads: “Any person tampering, circumventing or otherwise misusing this ignition interlock system is guilty of a violation of law.” DHSMV is apparently so concerned about any breach in the integrity of the ignition interlock program that they have insisted that all installers and personnel working at the service centers submit to both a criminal record and drivers license background check. DHSMV reserves the right to reject for use in the program any employee of the service providers and their subcontractors who have a criminal record. Back to Top
Florida ignition interlock legislation has a statutory provision that allows people in these limited situations to drive without the necessity of installing an ignition interlock device on a company vehicle. However, in order to take advantage of this employee exemption the driver must satisfy two requirements. First, that the owner (Company/Employer) be notified of the restriction. Second, that the business entity, which owns the vehicle, must not be owned or controlled by the same person whose driving privileges has been so restricted. If these conditions are met, the driver must carry an affidavit from the employer attesting to proof of the notification and employment nature of the vehicle. Florida Statute §316.1937(7). If you need an affidavit for this purpose, our office can draft and notarize a document that will comply with the Florida Statutes and enable you to lawfully operate a vehicle owned by your employer that is not equipped with an ignition interlock device. Back to Top
Because of safety concerns, the state of Florida decided to exclude motorcycles from the ignition interlock program. Florida Administrative Code Section 15A-9003(17) strictly prohibits interlocks from being installed on any motorcycle, bicycle, motorized scooter, electric personal assistive mobility device or moped. Back to Top
New Mexico struggled for years with alcohol related motor vehicle crashes. Despite its small population, in 2003, the state had the sixth highest rate in the nation for alcohol-related highway deaths. In that year alone, there were 213 fatalities and 3,500 alcohol-involved crashes. In order to address this problem, in 2005 New Mexico became the first state to undertake aggressive ignition interlock legislation. It was also the first state to require that everyone convicted of DUI be required to install an Ignition Interlock. New Mexico currently has more vehicles with interlocks per capita than anywhere else in the country. The New Mexico interlock program has been the source of intense study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA has acknowledged that “The legislative achievements in New Mexico changed the outlook for interlocks’ potential for making a contribution to road safety.” New Mexico’s success in reducing alcohol related injuries and fatalities along with the findings of NHTSA have influenced law makers throughout the United States.
Ignition interlock devices utilize either “fuel cell” or “gas sensor” technology. As such, they are less accurate than the intoxilyzer machines used by law enforcement. Intoxilyzers employ a somewhat more discriminating science called “infrared spectrometry.” However, even the accuracy of intoxilyzer testing falls far short of blood testing. This more exact science makes use of a laboratory process known as “gas chromatography. “Gas chromatography” reports only the ethyl alcohol present in the sample. Whereas, these lesser testing methods are non-specific for ethyl alcohol and have to be careful with improperly detecting other irrelevant methyl alcohol-like substances. For a more in-depth analysis of breath versus blood testing see our article: Your Right to an Independent Blood Test.
The Pinellas County installation centers are displayed below:
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Frank Russo, Marc Pelletier & Tim Sullivan Attorneys at Law About Us
Our Primary St. Petersburg Office Location: Baypoint Commerce Center – Koger Building Corner of 9th Street N. and Gandy Blvd. 9721 Executive Center Dr. North, Suite #120 St. Petersburg, FL 33702 map
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