Ignition Interlock Devices Becoming a Common Requirement for New Jersey Motorists Convicted of DWI

As we’ve stated previously, those who follow the news, here in New Jersey, know that drunk driving arrests are pretty much a part of the automotive landscape. Considering the various scenarios that can result in a motorist being arrested, charged and tried for operating their car or truck while under the influence of alcohol or doctor-prescribed medication (drug DUI), we as DWI defense lawyers understand how seemingly law-abiding citizens can find themselves in a courtroom trying to explain how they never realized they were drunk in the first place. It’s not an easy road.

For every driver who is stopped for an apparently minor traffic violation there is always the chance that he or she may be served with a summons for drunken driving. These encounters with state and local police are just a precursor to that inevitable appearance before a municipal or county judge. To expect leniency is piling hope upon hope, which rarely works in the real world of DWI law. If nothing else, the years of anti-DWI messages and physical enforcement should tell anyone accused of driving while intoxicated that the police and the courts hold a very dim view of individual whom they believe are DWI offenders.

Whether one is charged with impairment based on consuming alcohol, prescription drugs or even illegal substances such as cocaine, meth or marijuana, the course should be clear; walking into a courtroom unprepared is not a strategy for success. At the very minimum, one should consult with a qualified DWI/DUI defense attorney to better understand the situation and options going forward.

As New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyers, we understand the law and how it applies to individuals accused of violating the state’s drunken driving statutes. Why is consulting a lawyer important? For one, any individual convicted of a first-offense DWI has a good chance of having the court specify that an ignition interlock device (IID) be installed on his or her vehicle as part of the sentence. This applies to drivers found guilty of having a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of more than 0.05 percent; but for those who are convicted of DWI with a BAC of 0.15 percent and over, the law mandates that an IID be installed on one’s car.

We mention this because many people convicted of DWI have found that an IID is a burden with which they have to live for months on end, that is after they have had their driving privileges restored. As New Jersey defense attorneys, we would also add that there are many other costs involved with a DWI conviction, so an IID may be the least of one’s worries.

In any case, with more and more convicted DWI offenders being subjected to IIDs attached to their vehicles, it is becoming more commonplace with courts these days. In fact, over the past six years or so, more than 35,000 New Jersey residents have been ordered by the courts to have an IID installed on their vehicle as a condition of returning them their driving privileges. To see the relative increase, consider that in 2006, a little over 2,000 motorists convicted of DWI were told to install an IID on their cars; fast forward five years to 2011, and that number was pushing the 13,000 mark.

As one can see, the state has already shown that it places a great deal of value in IIDs as a deterrent to possible recidivism for those individuals charged and convicted of drunken driving. Authorities believe that IIDs are the best method for keeping first-time offenders from becoming second- or third-time offenders. And they point to studies that indicate a direct correlation between having an IID on a car and a reduction in recidivism. They apparently work as advertised, as well, since many interlocks are sensitive enough to detect even a trace amount of alcohol on a driver’s breath; this includes residual amounts from mouthwash or even chewing gum.

One final point. Just because one accepts the state’s requirement for an IID to be installed on one’s car, there are costs involved with that as well. For example, according to news sources, an IID offered by one of a handful of state-approved companies will cost a driver nearly $100 a month for lease and maintenance costs. A driver could save money and take on a yearly lease at $995, but this only proves our contention that being convicted of a drunken driving offense is only getting more and more expensive, in both financial terms as well as disruption to one’s life.