What Is an Ignition Interlock Device? — Maryland Traffic Law Explained

Getting a DUI is stressful at best. While you made a mistake, you shouldn’t have to put the rest of your life on pause for it.

Luckily, Maryland has an ignition interlock device program, which can give you your independence a lot earlier than you previously thought.

So today, let's review:

What Is an Ignition Interlock Device?

An ignition interlock is a small electronic device installed into a motor vehicle that measures the breath alcohol content of anybody trying to start or operate the vehicle.  

Think of an ignition interlock device as a very fancy battery. For a battery to create electricity, it needs an acid. If an individual has consumed alcohol, their breath becomes acidic.

So, when a would-be driver blows into an IID, a little chip can determine whether and how much alcohol that person has consumed based on the amount of current generated.

That's why IIDs are installed into vehicles: To prevent someone who's previously consumed alcohol before driving to do so again.

Therefore, before the previous offender can start the car, they must breathe into the ignition interlock device. If the IID detects a BAC greater than 0.025%, it will prevent the vehicle from starting.

IIDs in Practice: Maryland's Ignition Interlock Program

For those convicted of their first offense of driving while intoxicated in Maryland with a BAC of 0.15% or higher, expect to install an ignition interlock device for at least a year. (The court can require an IID for up to three years, depending on the circumstances.)

Far from an annoyance, however, the IID can be a lifeline for those who need to keep their license.

Those with a suspended driver’s license for intoxicated driving may get a restricted license by participating in Maryland's Ignition Interlock Program, or IIP, to prevent their license getting revoked.

Someone who is considered a habitual offender because of a fourth or subsequent offense must participate in the IIP for at least 24 months.

Maryland’s Ignition Interlock Program is managed by Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration, the MVA. The IIP allows Maryland drivers keep driving while reducing the chances that they will drive drunk again.

Once you've fulfilled the terms of your IIP enrollment, such as driving for a specific length of time without violations, the MVA will mail you an official letter which authorizes you to have the IID removed.

Do not lose this letter; you will need to bring this letter with you to get the IID removed.

How Maryland's Ignition Interlock Program Works

Central to Maryland's Ignition Interlock Program is the ignition interlock device itself. IIP participants must have an IID installed and connected with the MVA's monitoring system. 

First of all, IIDs will prevent the car from turning on if it detects alcohol. But, there are additional features of the IIP that continue to assist former drunk drivers with their recovery.

For example, random rolling retests are required while driving. This way, the IIP can tell if a driver waited until after the car started to begin drinking and driving once more.

The IID stores all results of the tests, which is downloaded whenever the driver brings their vehicle in for required monthly service and calibration.

This data is transferred to the MVA’s system, which automatically reviews and identifies potential violations. These incidents are forwarded to Ignition Interlock Program staff, who will take appropriate action.

Potential Violations of Maryland's Ignition Interlock Program

Ignition interlock devices are designed to prevent “cheating” the system. Violations of the program rules and requirements include, but are not limited to:

  • Not installing the IID at all;
  • Not getting the correct driver’s license that restricts you to only cars with the device;
  • Failure to appear for the required monthly monitoring visit;
  • Driving an unauthorized vehicle that doesn’t have an approved IID;
  • Failure to comply with the conditions of the service agreement with the ignition interlock service provider, including payment of all costs and fees associated with the program;
  • Tampering with, bypassing, or messing with the ignition interlock device, or allowing someone else to do the same;
  • Attempting to start or operate the vehicle with BAC greater than 0.025;
  • Ignoring retests after driving a car; and
  • Any license suspension or revocation imposed while participating in the program.

Ignition interlock device laws require that all interlock companies install an IID for a user within 10 days of the driver's request. They also must provide a toll-free 24-hour emergency response number for participants if something goes wrong.

Ignition Interlock Device FAQs: Costs and Exceptions

How Much Does an IID Cost?

The cost to install an ignition interlock device ranges from $150 to $200, depending on the provider. When you take your car in for servicing, you have to pay for those appointments, too. 

Maryland drivers can expect to pay close to the national average of $3 per day to maintain their IID, with a monthly average anywhere from $65 to $90.

Maryland Ignition Interlock Program participants may qualify for a fee waiver or reduced provider fees if they meet "certain eligibility requirements." These requirements may change, so remember to ask the MVA about it.

Does Everyone Have to Participate in Maryland's IIP?

No, there are exceptions in Maryland's IIP-related laws for those who drive employer vehicles.

The original law stated that someone needs an IID for any car the offender drove.

However, many people have to drive a company car for work. Employees were getting fired as a result.

In response, Maryland modified the law to exempt offenders who drive a vehicle only for work that is owned by their employer.

People who might want to apply for the employer exemption include:

  • Delivery truck drivers
  • Semi-truck drivers
  • Delivery van drivers
  • Limousine or taxi drivers
  • Construction workers or HVAC workers who use company vehicles

Keep in mind that this rule does not apply if you are self-employed and drive your own deliveries. In those cases, you would still need to install an IID and participate in Maryland's IIP to fulfill your obligations to the state.

Remember, too, that your boss has the ultimate say if they want to keep you in your current position despite your brush with the law for intoxicated driving. It's perfectly legal for them to switch your position or even fire you due to the charges or conviction.

If you're worried about the impact an ignition interlock device or participation in Maryland's Ignition Interlock Program may have on your life, personal or professional, contact us today for a free first consultation. We're happy to help walk you through the various exceptions and qualifications for the program, and help you keep your life as you know it while championing you before the MVA and in court.

 

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