New Jersey Drunk Drivers and Ignition Interlock Devices (FAQ)

Those arrested for drunken driving here in the Garden State don’t have much to look forward to should a conviction for DWI be the end result. In addition to the hundreds and even thousands of dollars in monetary penalties, such as assessments, fines, insurance premium increases and court fees, the law also requires convicted drunk driving offenders to have an ignition interlock device placed on his or her vehicle for a period specified by the court.

As New Jersey drunken driving defense lawyers, I and my colleagues have the skills and experience necessary to represent individuals accused of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol, prescription drugs, or a controlled dangerous substance (CDS). While many people may not think that they have a chance to avoid a DWI or drug DUI conviction, the fact remains that if you don’t try, you won’t ever know what is or isn’t possible.

When it comes to being found guilty of a drunk driving offense, many of those people who are convicted receive not only harsh monetary penalties but also possible jail time or other punitive measures. One of the increasingly common penalties that individuals find themselves being ordered to follow by the court is the mandatory use of an ignition interlock device.

As we’ve stated numerous times in the past, New Jersey drunk driving arrests are so much a part of the automotive landscape that most people may fail to realize the seriousness of a DWI charge. Considering the multiple opportunities for drivers to be pulled over for seemingly minor traffic offenses, it’s not surprising to find that many otherwise law-abiding citizens can end up at police headquarters for a blood-alcohol content (BAC) test and perhaps subsequent charges for driving under the influence.

In addition to the recommendation that accused drunk drivers contact a qualified DWI defense attorney to learn more about what may occur following a conviction for DWI, we have included the following list of questions and answers, which will likely provide some initial information that many motorists may find useful regarding the use and application of ignition interlock devices.

Q: Is the installation of an ignition interlock device automatically ordered for first-time convicted DWI offenders?

A: For a first offense, a convicted drunken driver (with a BAC of at least 0.05 percent) may face the use of an ignition interlock device for six to 12 months following restoration of his or her driver’s license. Per New Jersey law, this decision is left up to the discretion of the court. However, if the conviction is based on a BAC of 0.15 percent or more, the use of an ignition interlock device during license suspension and for six to 12 months following restoration of driving privileges will be mandatory.

Q: Is the use of an ignition interlock device mandatory for subsequent DWI offenders following a conviction?

A: Yes. Under the law, convicted second- and third-time offenders will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle during the period of license suspension, as well as for another one to three years following restoration of their driving privileges.

Q: What happens after the court orders the use of an ignition interlock?

A: Following sentencing by the court, the motorist will be sent a notice of suspension from the MVC with instructions explaining how to procure the device. Remember that there is the possibility of an additional penalty (one additional year of license suspension) if a driver fails to have an ignition interlock installed when ordered by the court.

Q: If a convicted DWI offender moves to another state during the period required by the court to have an ignition interlock device installed, does he or she need to continue to use the device?

A: Yes. Because installation of an interlock device is a condition of having one’s license restored in New Jersey, a device must be installed as if one were still living in New Jersey. Failing to maintain an ignition interlock device on one’s vehicle can cause one’s driver’s license to remain indefinitely suspended in the Garden State, which may impact the driver’s ability to get a driver’s license in his new state.

Q: What do I do if I have been ordered to have an ignition interlock device installed, yet I don’t currently own a motor vehicle?

A: For those who have been convicted of DWI and ordered to have an ignition interlock installed, if one does not plan to operate any vehicle during his or her suspension term, that motorist may obtain a non-driver ID from the state.

If a person doesn’t own a vehicle himself, yet uses one belonging to another person, the convicted drunk driver will only be legally able to drive a vehicle if it has an interlock device installed. In order to meet the requirements leading to restoration of one’s driving privileges, the motorist must provide the MVC with a service invoice and a certification of interlock installation to prove an interlock device had been installed even though the vehicle does not belong to that individual.

Q: What if I cannot operate the ignition interlock device due to a medical condition?

A: In such instances, the convicted drunken driver must contact his or her doctor and obtain a detailed note explaining the condition and how it affects operation of the interlock device. The doctor’s note should be presented to the interlock manufacturer who will then forward it to MVC for consideration.