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The Scoop on Ignition Interlock Devices

The Scoop on Ignition Interlock Devices

What's the story with ignition interlock devices? Well, like most things law, it depends. Not only can courts order them as a part of pretrial or post-trial convictions, the DoL also requires them to get your license reinstated. Find out all the gritty details in this episode of the Legal Docket with Dillon Honcoop and DUI attorney Jonathan Rands.


Episode Transcript

Dillon
Well sometimes when people are in trouble, and they've been convicted, well I guess sometimes before convicted of a crime, you can have the old ignition interlock device. The blow-and-go thing, right? Jonathan Rands in studio with us this morning. Is that correct sometimes?

Jonathan
That is correct. They can be ordered as a pre-trial condition. They can be required from the Department of Licensing before criminal action is even filed, because there's a filing delay of several months. And if the DoL has taken action prior to that happening through the Department of Licensing administrator of proceedings, they wouldn't be ordered by the court, but they would certainly be required. So yes, there is a variety of circumstances that an ignition interlock is necessary, ordered, required by DoL, and/or all of the above. There isn't any really one recipe to say, this is the only time that you need it.

Dillon
Welcome, by the way, good morning to you.

Jonathan
Thank you, good morning.

Dillon
Jonathan Rands, local DUI attorney, our guest this half hour. Is this true, you had a client that said, you need to do a show talking about what's going on with these ignition interlock devices?

Jonathan
I had an email from somebody that was not a client that was enquiring about it. And then after a couple of email exchanges, he indicated that, hey, why don't you talk about this on your show. I said, that's a good idea! So here we are. 

Dillon
So he does actually take suggestions via email, folks. You can find his email, by the way, at jrandslaw.com. Just a little hint for you. Or you can call him at (360) 306-8136. 

Jonathan
I'm a little disappointed with this chair this morning, though.

Dillon
You're sagging down over there.

Jonathan
I'm way down over on this side and I can barely, just see your forehead over the computer screens over there.

Dillon
They've relegated us to this extra studio for this hour back here where we're tucked in that back corner of the bowels of the building. So the old blow-and-go, the ignition interlock device — it's been a long time since we've talked about these.

Jonathan
I think we've always talked about these peripherally in terms of, hey these are the consequences. We haven't actually really got into the meat and potatoes, if you will, of it.

Dillon
So it's a device that goes in your car that makes you give a breath sample below the legal limit? Is that variable? Can it have no alcohol at all? What's the rule? And then it prohibits you from starting your car until you can prove that your breath sample is clean, right?

Jonathan
I mean, that's the general premise of it. I think they always start it out as a device that prohibited a car from starting or continuous operation because there are rolling samples, as we call them. But they have now morphed into a pre-trial or a post-conviction alcohol monitoring device as well. So, I mean, the goal of them has always been if you're convicted of DUI, that we want to make sure that it doesn't happen again. The thought process being that if somebody has a DUI and they have an addiction and they're getting behind the wheel even though they, you know, truly wouldn't necessarily do that absent the addiction. It was in public safety interest to keep that person from operating a motor vehicle. Of course, you would have to follow the rule and install one in your vehicle, versus being ordered to do it and not installing one in your vehicle and continue driving  around over the legal limit. 

But they've turned into a, like any technology, it's only gotten better. And of course when it gets better it becomes more versatile for different uses. I mean, ideally a person that gives a breath sample has no alcohol on their breath. However, I do believe they are set for a threshold of the vehicle will still start and will still operate as long as you're below a .04. And I believe, and some of this is a little wishy-washy because there's technology at play and technology is changing, and I only know what I glean from talking to the vendors and talking to my clients and things to that nature. And also having to deal with violations when they do occur. Because they would occur in terms of saying court order orders somebody to only operate a vehicle, while the case is pending, with an ignition interlock device. And if you don't do that, then that's a potential violation. They're also ordered to consume no alcohol. So if you get an ignition interlock printout with .02s and .03s, so the car still operates, but now there's a question of whether you're in violation of the court order because probation monitors these. 

And again, we're jumping around, but the way it works is now anyway, they are photo enabled. And they also have a small memory card, sim card, capabilities. And if you've ever taken a picture with your camera you know that they hold a fair amount of information, especially the .jpgs. The device itself is not much bigger than that phone receiver that I'm pointing to in the studio here. But basically you're home telephone, if you still have one, and the cord that's connected to it — the breathalyzer instrument, or the ignition interlock is not much bigger than that. It is a very small device. Handheld and it has an opening on it that extends from that device that allows you to make a good seal and give a sample. It analyzes the sample under the same technology that the roadside breath test use. So it's an elecro-chemical analysis versus infrared spectroscopy, or basically your breath goes against a membrane and there's a chemical reaction that alcohol will send a particular signal to.

Dillon
Definitely not gas chromatography.

Jonathan
No not at all. Completely different science altogether. But good attempt at use of the words. 

Dillon
I'm trying, I'm trying.

Jonathan
The device is relatively unobtrusive meaning, when they first came out, I've seen pictures of them bolted to people's dashboards. And they were vertical and there were probably 6" x 6".

Dillon
Well, how does it actually do that to the vehicle? It just connects to the vehicles wiring system?

Jonathan
It's connected to the ignition. So —

Dillon
Are vehicles made to accept these things?

Jonathan
Yes and no. I mean there was some real difficulties in say the Prius because of the way the ignition system worked on that. As vehicle technology develops, the interface that the companies create also advances. The biggest challenge that I know in the not to recent past was push starts. Because you don't have the same ignition system. But ultimately what it does is it interfaces with the ignition system and if you get a positive result above the threshold it "locks you out." And what that means is that your car won't turn on. Or what it also means is if you're rolling down the road, and this happens on a random basis, once you get the car started and you're going down the road, at different intervals, and I don't know what the algorithm is that dictates the intervals, but what I do know is that at different intervals, it will alert you that you need to give a breath sample. And yes, that means ideal you should pull off the road and give a breath sample, but I think ideally we should not be using cell phones and we all do it. So what happens is a person will give a breath sample as they're rolling down the road, and it will accept it, or it won't. And if it rejects it, the scary thing is that it can cut the engine.

Dillon
Isn't that dangerous?

Jonathan
I think so, but at the same time, you do get a little bit of notice that, hey, you're going to be cut off. At certain circumstances, I can see it being extremely dangerous.

Dillon
Yeah, how much time do you have between when it lets you know? Let's say you're in a tight driving situation, I don't know, I've been going down the freeway trying to get past Lake Samish and it's pouring rain and I'm stuck next to a couple of semis and it's like, I just need to focus on the road entirely for five minutes.

Jonathan
Well that's just it, right? Because first of all, this warning will go off, and if you've got the radio too loud or if you don't have it handy so that you can see it, unlike a cell phone, it doesn't vibrate, it lights up and sends a message or makes a tone. So if you're like a lot of us, if you're multi-tasking, if you're listening to the radio, if you're talking on your phone (handsfree, of course), maybe you miss it. And if you miss the window, it's also considered a fail as well. And so, of course, the idea is that you can't just get a car started and go on a lengthy trip and nick the bottle as you cruise through. 

But the bigger problem that I see with this, is that it is susceptible to false positives. And so anything that you ingest that is used in the creation of alcohol can be a false positive. So people that, I had a client that was driving down the road eating an orange and pizza. Or sandwiches — you get yeast, you get bread, you get all the things that are used in the fermentation process. These can create false positives. Of course, the cure is this: if you get a false positive, it's usually not a high number. It's usually in the .03s, .02s, .029s or something like that. And what people need to remember is that when you have, or if you have one of these in your vehicle, always carry a bottle of water with you. It's a great lesson in hydration, but more importantly after you eat something, after you spit your gum out, after you get rid of your mint because you've got to give a breath sample, give your mouth a quick rinse because you want to make sure you've cleared anything that's going to create a foreign, or not a foreign, a false positive. Because it's not super technology. It's base screening technology, and false positives are an issue.

Now fortunately, now that everyone in Washington has to be equipped with a photo, we get away from issues of somebody being violated on a probation action because they gave a positive or a false positive. And what we used to do, or what I used to do is say, hey you've been ordered to have this on a pre-trial basis or even, at that time it was post-conviction, and people would say, well, I wasn't driving my car. I took my car in for service. You'd be amazed at how many mechanics on duty give positive blows. At least in my line of work, you'd be amazed anyway.

Dillon
I guess you'd find out that way. 

Jonathan
Or they lent their car to somebody. Or, you know, somebody went outside and moved the car.

Dillon
To me, hold on, on the mechanic thing, that's a little surprising that a mechanic would — because they know they're moving a vehicle ignition interlock device, so they blow. They know — what do they think, it doesn't apply to me?

Jonathan
I don't know.

Dillon
You could really be screwing somebody else over pretty badly, couldn't you?

Jonathan
You could, and what I would have to do in a couple scenarios, is tracked down where the car was, in this particular case, moved or handled, and ask them, did you move this car? Yes. Did you blow into it? And I think a lot of the false positives that mechanics would have is there's always solvent around them. So, I mean, there's gasoline on their hands, there's all sorts of volatiles that can be introduced into this thing. But I'd have to get an affidavit from somebody else who drove the car. And who wasn't subjected to this order. So a person could come in on a probation violation for having consumed alcohol, or alleged to have consumed alcohol because they look at the download from this. And the person would swear up and down, that wasn't me. And then we'd have to go back on the calendar and say, when did this happen? Ok, well what were you doing? And then we have to find somebody that's willing to say, yes, that was me, and here's my affidavit. Well that doesn't happen anymore because with the photo enabled ignition interlock device, as you're giving a breath sample, there's a photo taken of who it is. Just like a little lens on your cell phone camera. And when it's cleared, the picture's deleted. But when it's a positive, the picture is saved, and that's how they save space on the sim card.

Dillon
I see. 

Jonathan
And then there is never any doubt as to who did what when.

Dillon
From a privacy standpoint, this has a camera on it, can the State access that remotely?

Jonathan
Probably. But I'm not a techie.

Dillon
Does it transmit that data to the State, or do they have to plug in?

Jonathan
No, not yet. But I just read an article about the smart cars or the cars that are connected to the internet, or 4g that's coming out so that you always have it. Right now the download is really a function of, it's all self-contained, so the download really is removing the sim card at whatever the authorized dealer is where you go in once a month and they download the data, which tells them all the things that have happened over the last 30 days. Some agencies will simply read the card. Some will pull the card out, download it, save it and then plug it back into the device itself. And then if it's a pre-trial condition, you are forced to authorize them to share that with, in this particular case, Whatcom County Probation, on a pre-trial basis. And they look at it and if they see positives, not false positives cuz they're supposed to be able to determine what's a false positive and what's not. And obviously a .06 at 8:30 in the morning that when you give another sample — because there's windows here that you give a breath sample. And if you give a really high number then you give a really low number, it's smart enough to know you can't eliminate alcohol that fast, and it's potentially mouth wash or toothpaste or something first thing in the morning. And as long as it gets below the threshold within the allotted blows, you're fine. But if it never does or, what some people do is they get frustrated by being in a rush and having to wait to reset and they walk away from it and take a taxi, is what's reported to me. And if you fail to follow through with the protocol, that's just as bad as giving a positive sample.

Dillon
Really?

Jonathan
Yeah.

Dillon
And that's what I was going to ask earlier because you said it's counted as a fail if you don't do it within the amount of time, and then you go to court for your next whatever, and they're like hey, you basically had a positive, you were trying to drink and drive?

Jonathan
So let's be clear about, I mean what we're talking about right now is the ignition interlock device, but we're also morphing it into a person that's been court ordered to do that, and also court ordered to not consume alcohol on a pretrial basis. Because it doesn't always work that way, meaning, if a person decides to install an ignition interlock all on their own because they're having some issues, or I've had people come to me and say hey, I don't have an issues, but I've got this person living in my house and they have access to my vehicles. That kind of stuff isn't ever reported to Department of Licensing. That's just a voluntary install. So the way DoL learns about it, and this is important on the back side of a conviction because DoL will require an ignition interlock for a period of time. But before that, there isn't any ramifications from the Department of Licensing. But there is ramifications if you've been court ordered to do this and the court has ordered probation to monitor this as a means of not only not driving, but not drinking at all.

So you see why this is a fairly complex subject that somebody has said, he can you talk about this. Because there's an order from the court on a pretrial basis, and then there's an order by the court on a post-conviction, and certain convictions require the installation of an ignition interlock that you don't have to do by court order, but if you want to drive for DoL's rules, you have to do. And if you choose to do that, then you're also forced to share the ignition interlock information that you've installed for DoL with probation.

Dillon
We're going to get more on this in just a moment. We do have to take a quick time out. Jonathan Rands is our guest this half hour. Local DUI attorney, his practice is right there in Fairhaven. (360) 306-8136 is the phone number to reach him. And as I mentioned earlier, his website is jrandslaw.com. R-a-n-d-s is his last name, very simply jrandslaw.com. And again (360) 306-8136. Stay with us. More on ignition interlock devices when we come back here on the Legal Docket. I'm Dillon Honcoop with you along with Jonathan Rands here on a Sunday morning on KGMI.

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Dillon
Blow-and-go as they're sometimes called in the vernacular. Ignition interlock devices, the things that test your breath before they let you start your car. In some cases people can put those in their cars voluntarily for different reasons. But more often than not it's because a court has ordered you to. Having to do with you being accused of or convicted of ultimately driving under the influence. 

Jonathan
Yes.

Dillon
Am I setting that up correctly?

Jonathan
I think so, yes.

Dillon
Jonathan Rands, local DUI attorney, our guest this half hour. So you had someone connect with you. If you missed it, you can catch it on the podcast at KGMI.com, we talked about these ignition interlock devices generally how they work, some of the sticking points, some of the issues with them. You had someone reach out to you though, and that's what inspired us talking about it today, with a specific question about how these work, and specifically with, what, and early release provision?

Jonathan
More importantly the time frame. And so all we're going to talk about for this last couple of minutes, it's always amazing how much time we spend —

Dillon
Half hour goes fast.

Jonathan
Yeah. So if you're convicted of DUI, first time you're convicted of DUI you need an ignition interlock pursuant to that for one year. That's a DoL rule. What that means is DoL will not give your license back unless you comply wit the one year rule. Now on a second offense in a lifetime, that one year goes to five years. On a third offense in a lifetime you need an ignition interlock for ten years.

Dillon
Wow.

Jonathan
So no matter what the order is, the last four months can never be opted out of. And what I mean by that is, on a first offense or any other, whatever the length of the order is, you don't have to do it as long as you don't want to drive. So for, what is it, eight months. For the first eight months of a one year order, you consider yourself, I'm just not going to drive. Self-imposed punishment; I can't afford the ignition interlock, or the install at $100/month or the maintenance that goes with that. So I'm just not going to drive. And you used to be able to just wait the whole year. Now, recently, there's a rule that says, the last four months of a DoL order cannot be opted out of. And sometimes people are reading this as an early release provision, but it's not. What it is, is DoL is saying you have to be perfect in the last four month in whatever time frame we've order you — one, five, or ten — and if you're not perfect, or if it's not one of these legitimate excuses, or lack of a better word, you have to start a new four month compliance procedure. 

Dillon
What if you just quit driving all together? 

Jonathan
You can't! I mean, you can, but DoL says —

Dillon
Well, I'll never give you your license back.

Jonathan
They're going to hold it for 99 years. 

Dillon
Hmm.

Jonathan
Which is for, I mean, in the lifetime of a human being ... So really what they say is, it's fine, you can opt out for as long as you want up until the last four months of the order. And if you don't show compliance, we will never release you from this restriction, no will we, and of course the restriction is tied to your license, and if you don't comply, you won't have a valid driver's license on file. 

Dillon
So for that four months, how often do you have to drive? Can you just drive one time and be perfect? 

Jonathan
Arguable yes, except we've got the issue of there's a GPS installed in these and if the vehicle's never been moved, they want proof that you're not driving it for any other reason other than you're driving some other vehicle.

Dillon
Right.

Jonathan
So it's, you know, the whole GPS scenario is mind-boggling and we can spend another hour on that, but I mean, the takeaway there's no early release. The last four months can be read as an early release, but it's not. It's requiring you to, if you don't own a vehicle you're never going to get your license back. If you don't own a vehicle, that means, you have to either purchase a vehicle or borrow somebody's, install the ignition interlock for $100, the last four months have to be complied with, so that means it needs to be maintained and you basically lease these for a period of time. It's about $100 to install and about $100 / month. So you've got $500 invested in this in order to get your license back when you've just decided you were going to not drive for the eight months previously. 

Dillon
Wow. Jonathan Rands, local DUI attorney. I can already think of so many caveats, but we have to run. Thanks for being here this morning, certainly appreciate it. (360) 306-8136 is the phone number to reach Jonathan Rands law practice in Fairhaven. (360) 306-8136, the website is jrandslaw.com, that's all one word. His last name is Rands r-a-n-d-s, so just the letter j, for Jonathan Rands r-a-n-d-s law l-a-w jrandslaw.com. Check that website out. Go have a great Sunday. You too Jonathan.

Jonathan
Thanks very much. See you next time.


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