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The Infallibility of Interlock Ignition Devices

by | Apr 1, 2013

Ignition interlock devices have rocketed into popularity within the last few years, as of 2012 becoming mandated in DUI cases in all 50 states as well as in Washington D.C.

Our D.C. DUI defense lawyers know that proponents of the in-vehicle breathalyzers touted them as some kind of wonder machine that would prevent thousands of drunk driving crashes each year.

But the reality is, these devices are infallible. There are ways around them. Not that we would recommend trying to test to the system, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest the devices aren’t nearly as infallible as supporters have made them out to be.

Take the case of a 50-year-old Washington State man. Back in January, he was facing a judge on his fifth DUI charge for an arrest that occurred three months earlier when he was stopped for speeding. While at the sentencing, the prosecutor announced that she smelled alcohol on the defendant. A handheld breathalyzer administered by a deputy revealed his blood alcohol level was over the limit at 0.14 percent. He had driven to court drunk, despite the fact that he was already supposed to have been using an ignition interlock device from a previous arrest.

He served two weeks in jail before posting a bond of $10,000.

Two weeks later, he was involved in a fatal car accident in which a couple from Indiana was killed and their daughter-in-law and infant grandchild were critically injured, just outside of Seattle. He was behind the wheel of a vehicle that reportedly struck theirs in an intersection. Authorities said his blood alcohol level was at 0.22 percent at the time.

How did he continue to get around it? According to court records, the ignition interlock device had been ordered to be installed on his pick-up truck. However, he had another vehicle in his possession that did not have a device installed on it, an oversight by the court.

Now, that same individual is being held on $2.5 million bail on felony charges of vehicular homicide and vehicular assault.

It’s unclear whether other measures might have prevented this accident, but it’s clear that tougher ignition interlock devices did not. D.C. is not immune from the continued barrage of tougher DUI laws. Just this year, the D.C. council made installation of interlock ignition devices mandatory for all DUI offenders, including those arrested just one time.

But they are not as infallible as manufacturers and promoters want to make them out to be. They do nothing to thwart drivers who are impaired by controlled substances. They also don’t stop these individuals from driving someone else’s vehicle. Law enforcement officials admit there is no way to know whether someone required to have an ignition interlock device is driving another vehicle or not – unless they are pulled over.

Tougher DUI legislation is one of those things that is relatively easy to pass because it may look good for politicians and very few people will stand up for the rights of those who have been arrested for drunk driving. We are among those who believe accused DUI offenders’ rights are just as important as everyone else’s. Legislators should take care to pass laws that make sense and are actually effective.

In the meantime, if you are arrested for a DUI in D.C., trust the Law Office of Joseph Scrofano to protect your rights. Call us at 202-765-3175.