2019 California Law Requires Repeat DUI Offenders to Install Breathalyzers (Ignition Interlock Devices) in Cars

blowing into ignition interlock deviceUnder a California law that took effect on January 1, 2019, ignition interlock devices (IID) must be installed in the vehicles of those who have been convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) multiple times or just once if injury was involved. The interlock device must remain in the vehicle for a period of 12-48 months.

Commonly known as breathalyzers, IIDs are connected to a vehicle’s engine and detect alcohol on the breath of a driver. If alcohol is detected, the IID prevents the vehicle from starting. The IID also requires “rolling” samples during vehicle operation. If a breath sample fails during operation, it will record the failed test on the device.

New Laws Under SB 1046

While the new requirements took effect at the beginning of this year, the original ignition interlock device (IID) law was actually approved in 2016 (California Senate Bill 1046).

The legislation was introduced as a pilot program in February 2016 and only applied to four counties: Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare. The program was extended until July 2018. During the pilot program, DUI offenders in these counties were subject to the conditions that now apply to every driver in the state.

The law says IIDs are required in the following situations:

  • The first time a driver is convicted of DUI that results in an injury, he or she must have an IID in his or her vehicle for six months
  • The first time a driver is convicted of DUI and it does not result in injury, he or she can choose to drive for six months with an IID or for one year with a restricted license
  • For a second DUI, an IID is required for a one-year period
  • For a third DUI, an IID is required for a two-year period
  • For a fourth DUI as well as subsequent DUIs, an IID is required for a three-year period

These changes expire in 2026 unless there are more revisions to the law.

Benefits of Ignition Interlock Devices

As of July 2018, 32 states and the District of Columbia required the installation of IIDs for all convicted drunk drivers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that requiring or incentivizing the use of IIDs reduces repeat DUI offenses by about 70 percent.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), California IIDs have prevented more than one million drinking and driving events since 2010. A report from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) states that IIDs are 74 percent more effective in preventing repeat DUIs compared to suspending the driver’s licenses of first time DUI offenders. Among second time DUI offenders, IIDs are 70 percent more effective.

Approximately 50 to 75 percent of DUI offenders in California continue to drive illegally after an arrest, and do not join IID or treatment programs. The new IID law aims to incentivize IID use by allowing offenders to gain driving privileges soon after arrest if they comply with restrictions.

Arguments Against the New Law

There are some who oppose the new law requiring IID installation for DUI offenders. Some say the requirement is too harsh for first-time DUI offenders. Others point out that repeat offenses typically occur more than six months after the first. With IIDs only required for six months following a first offense, opponents argue the devices would not be helpful in deterring repeat DUIs.

Others cite the cost of installation and maintenance and say this creates a financial burden for offenders. IIDs have an estimated monthly cost between $60 and $80 for maintenance.

Contact Our Attorneys After a Collision

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