Virginia to Require Ignition Interlock for All DUI Offenders

Starting on July 1, 2012, Virginia will join 15 other states in requiring all persons convicted of a drunk driving offense to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. Under current law, only those with repeat DUIs are required to use the devices.

Essentially, an ignition interlock functions like a mini-Breathalyzer connected to the car's ignition system. Drivers must blow into the device and prove they are sober before the car will start. In addition, drivers must submit to a number of "rolling retests" during the course of their journey. These retests are designed to prevent drunk drivers from having a sober friend blow into the device at the start of the trip.

If a driver fails the rolling retest, the car's horn will honk intermittently until the driver turns off the car. The driver must the pass a breath test before the car can be started up again.

The interlock device has a hard drive that records each test. In addition, it can detect and record efforts to tamper with the device or disconnect it from the car's electrical system. Each month, users must report to a service center to have the device's data downloaded and monitored. If any violations are detected, a report will be issued to the user's probation officer

Under the new law, DUI offenders will have 30 days to prove they have had an interlock device installed. Those who fail to do so - and those who fail to have the interlock system properly monitored and calibrated - could have their driving privileges revoked.

The bill's sponsors say the move will reduce drunk driving rates. They say data shows that ignition interlock devices reduce repeat offenses. Further, they say that the threat of having an ignition interlock device installed serves as a deterrent against first-time offenses.

If you have been charged with a drunk driving offense, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, as the penalties can be severe. An attorney can advise you of your rights and prepare an effective defense based on the circumstances of your arrest.