Ignition Interlock Devices in Texas

Ignition interlock devices are breathalyzer machines that are attached to a vehicle’s ignition system and usually placed on the passenger side of the vehicle. The driver must breathe into the device before starting the engine. If the breath alcohol content exceeds a predetermined limit, the vehicle will not start. After starting the vehicle, the device may require the driver to provide a supplemental breath sample to prove ongoing sobriety. Before providing another sample, the driver will be notified of the retest and provided time to pull over to a safe location.

It should be mentioned that all of the driver’s breath samples are recorded and available to the court. If the driver has been drinking and tries to drive, they will face additional penalties.

The IID is also equipped with a camera, which ensures that the person providing the breath sample is the driver and not someone else.

A motorist who needs an ignition interlock machine implemented in their vehicle may incur additional costs and fines if they violate the device requirements, such as:

  • Tampering with the interlock’s mouthpiece, or driving a vehicle in which the sensor has been tampered with
  • Failure to inspect the interlock device at least once every 60 days.
  • Request that someone else provide a breath test sample so that you can start the car or continue driving.
  • Help someone with an interlock license start or continue driving their vehicle by blowing into the breath device for them.
  • Allowing a driver who has this alcohol-detecting device as a condition of driving to operate another vehicle that does not have an ignition interlock device.

Texas’ Ignition Interlock Law

Before the new legislation, a person who had their license suspended after being convicted of DWI could not drive. The only exception was when a person applied to the court for an occupational license.

Acquiring an occupational license was a complicated process. Before applying for the license, the driver had to wait a certain amount of time. They also had to show the court that driving was necessary for their job or education. Even in that case, the petition could be rejected if it was in the best interests of public safety. Furthermore, even if the petition was awarded, the ability to drive was restricted to a specific number of hours per day and on particular days of the week.

Due to the complexities of the process, some drivers found guilty of DWI continued to drive even after the suspension of their license. In short, the law as written was not accomplishing its intended purpose.

Today, if a person is convicted of DWI and their license is suspended, they can still drive if they meet the following conditions:

  • This was their first DWI offense.
  • Their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was less than.15;
  • Their vehicle is outfitted with an IID.

They no longer have to wait to ask the court for an occupational license and hope that the judge determines that driving is necessary for their employment or education. They have to install the IID on their dime and provide evidence of this to the court.

A driver with 4 or more DUI offense charge convictions is usually ineligible for license reinstatement. This alcohol-detection breath interlock machine must be used by everyone who drives the DUI or DWI offender’s car, including friends and family who may drive the exact vehicle at other times.

Ignition Interlock Device Cost

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles collects a $10 license fee to register as an ignition interlock device user. However, the main costs are associated with the device’s installation and maintenance. The state maintains a list of certified IID installers, allowing users to find the best price. According to estimates, installation can cost between $70 and $150, and monthly monitoring costs and calibration fees can range between $60 and $80.

Ignition Interlock Violations

There is a multitude of ignition interlock violations to be aware of once you are eligible/required to enter your state’s restricted driving program. Common infractions include:

  • Driving a vehicle that does not have an IID
  • Attempting to tamper with or unplug the device
  • Attempting to get around the device (having someone else blow into it)
  • Attempting to get rid of the device
  • Failure to pass a startup test (with a BAC above a specified level)
  • Failure to pass a rolling retest (with a BAC above a specified level)
  • omitting the rolling retest
  • Continuing to operate a vehicle after failing a rolling retest
  • Failure to notify a lockout
  • Failure to attend a monthly service visit
  • Nonpayment of monthly maintenance fees

All ignition interlock devices approved by the state must meet federal IID specifications. The device must be able to record the date, time, and location (if GPS-equipped) of each breath test, as well as the test results.