If you’ve been convicted of a drunk driving offense or otherwise had your license suspended for alcohol-related reasons, chances are good that you’ll need to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in order to regain driving privileges. In recent years, Texas has significantly expanded use of IIDs, a move which has both benefits and drawbacks for anyone accused of drunk driving.
Some basic information about IID use in Texas is provided below.
What is an ignition interlock device?
To determine alcohol impairment, police officers typically rely on a portable breath-alcohol test, commonly referred to as a breathalyzer. When the suspect blows into the device, it measures the amount of alcohol expelled in the breath to calculate the person’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC).
An IID is essentially a sophisticated breathalyzer test wired into the vehicle itself. The driver must self-administer a test and pass in order for the vehicle to start. The driver may even be periodically required to retest throughout the trip to ensure that he or she hasn’t started drinking after the initial test.
When is an IID required in Texas?
There are instances in which the requirement of an IID is left to a judge’s discretion and times when it is statutorily required. For instance, first-time DWI offenses don’t always require the installation of an IID, but judges can order them on a case-by-cases basis. However, if a first-time offender was convicted with a BAC at or about 0.15 percent (nearly twice the legal limit), the law mandates the installation of an IID. Subsequent offenses (beyond a first conviction) will very likely require the installation of an IID.
Positives and negatives
IIDs have upsides and downsides. The biggest upside for those who have been charged/convicted is that you can regain driving privileges more quickly than in the past. Because of the safeguards provided by the IID, the court does not have to rely on trust to ensure that you are not driving impaired.
The downsides include costs, inconvenience and potential embarrassment. The driver is often responsible for the costs of IID installation/removal, maintenance and other expenses, in addition to court fines and fees. These costs can be significant, and not every driver can afford them. On the other hand, having an IID could allow you to continue travelling to and from work, which means you can continue to earn a living.
Finally, there is the inconvenience and embarrassment factors. Testing can be a hassle when you are in a hurry, and required retests may force you to pull over when you’d rather keep going. It can also be embarrassing to be seen blowing into a breathalyzer in your vehicle because it lets others know that you have been accused/convicted of DWI.
Know your options when accused of drunk driving
Ignition interlock devices are primarily a logistical consequence of a DWI case. As you know, DWI charges also come with the risks of possible jail time and steep fines, in addition to other sentencing measures. That’s why, if you’ve been accused of drunk driving, it is important to know exactly what you’re up against and what your legal options are.