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Ignition Interlock Devices in Maryland DUI Cases

A Maryland DUI lawyer represents clients in all forms of Ignition Interlock hearings at the Office of Administrative Hearings. If you are required to have an Ignition Interlock device installed in your vehicle and you get too many interlock violations, the MVA will try to suspend your driver’s license. In most cases, before the MVA can suspend your license, they must give you a chance to challenge the suspension at an administrative hearing. To discuss your case call and schedule a consultation with a Maryland DUI lawyer today.

Understanding Ignition Interlock Devices

An ignition interlock is a hand-held breath-testing machine that hooks into a motor vehicle usually under the steering column and is used to measure the breath alcohol content of anybody who attempts to start the vehicle.  The ignition interlock device works basically as half of the battery.  A standard battery has an acidic and a basic portion and it connects the two and generates current.  The ignition interlock device has the basic elements of the battery.  An individual’s breath would act as the acidic part of the battery by generating a current.  There’s a little chip inside the ignition interlock device that extrapolates from the amount of current generated by that interaction what the individuals breath alcohol content would be.

Our attorneys have experience handling clients that are required to use the Ignition Interlock system, and they can advise you about how it might affect your life moving forward. Don’t go into this situation alone and without the tools to understand what is happening to you. Contact us today for more information about this system and other DUI laws in the state of Maryland.

Please contact us for more information about the services provided by this office and how we may be able to help you fight the DUI charge you face.

Circumstances That Require Ignition Interlock Devices

There are basically three circumstances in Maryland where an individual would have to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle.

The first of those is an individual who blows high.  In Maryland, a high blow is any blow of 0.15 or higher.  If an individual blows 0.15 or higher, the only type of modification that they’re eligible for requires participation in the ignition interlock program for at least a period of one year.

The other circumstance where an individual is required to participate in the ignition interlock program through an administrative sanction is in the case of breath test refusals.  If an individual refuses to complete a breathalyzer test, then the only kind of modification for the suspension of their license again requires participation in the ignition interlock program for a period of one year.

The third category of individuals are ordered to have an interlock installed, not necessarily as a result of a single DUI.  That can be as a condition of probation from a judge or it can be as a referral from the Maryland Medical Advisory Board who can impose conditions like ignition interlock on individuals who they believe are unsafe to operate a motor vehicle.

Problems with Ignition Interlock Devices

The ignition interlock is an imperfect piece of technology. The companies that make them tend to spend more time and effort on lobbying to make people put them in their cars than they do on making sure that the machine actually works properly. Many individuals tell me horror stories about their ignition interlock, for example that they can be triggered by things beside alcohol.

Ketosis-Related False Positives

My favorite example is ketosis. For people who go on the Atkins diet or who do endurance sports, such as long-distance runners, bikers, or swimmers, their body goes into an alternate metabolism called ketosis, by which they digest ketones and turn them into isopropanol, rather than the standard metabolic process. The ignition interlock device can’t tell the difference between the isopropanol that their body spontaneously produces and the ethanol that they drink.

I’ve had clients with ignition interlock devices who either did the Atkins diet or who were endurance runners who just ran a half-marathon and were getting positive results based on the isopropanol on their breath.

Ignition interlock devices can be effective if people don’t cheat them, which a lot of people do. I’ve heard of people having one car with an ignition interlock device and another car that doesn’t have it that they drive when they go out drinking. I’ve also heard of people having a sober friend blow into the device for them so that the car will start. When I was an administrative judge in Colorado, somebody came in who carried a compressed gas cylinder in their car that they would use to blow into the interlock device.

How Much Does An Ignition Interlock Cost?

Installation fees per ignition interlock can vary anywhere from a $100 to $200 and occasionally shops will run specials where they install the ignition interlock for free.  Unfortunately, when you’re required to have the ignition interlock device installed, you usually don’t have time to shop around for that ignition interlock device.  So you’re usually limited to what’s available at that time.  In addition to an installation fee, there is also a fee for removal of the device at the end of lease and there is a monthly rental fee, which can vary anywhere between $60 to $100.

Other Alcohol Monitoring Devices in Maryland

There are other alcohol monitoring devices but they’re significantly less common than ignition interlock.  Ignition interlocks are probably the most common monitoring device used in Maryland.  Some ankle monitors for people who are on home detention or intensely supervised release will measure blood alcohol content or estimate that through skin responses.  However, those are much, much less common than ignition interlock devices.  There’s probably a 100 or a thousand ignition interlock devices installed for every ankle monitor that’s been used in Maryland.

Benefits of an Attorney Regarding Ignition Interlock Devices

Attorneys can help in several ways with issues regarding ignition interlock devices.

One, they can counsel individuals whether or not it make sense for them to install the ignition interlock device or challenge the suspension of their license.  An individual does not have to install ignition interlock.  They can challenge the suspension of their license and if they win the challenge, then there is no suspension and no requirement for interlock.  Alternatively, if the individual loses the challenge, they can still at that point ask for an ignition interlock device.

Second, an attorney can be helpful in guiding people through the process of having the device installed as well as the process of challenging violation of the ignition interlock device. If the interlock device detects alcohol or an attempt to tamper with the device, the MVA will be notified and the MVA will usually issue a one-month extension of the ignition interlock device.

After three of those extensions, the MVA will terminate the individual from the program and force them to suffer the suspension of their license that was being held in abeyance while they participated in the ignition interlock program.  An attorney can be helpful in challenging that proposed suspension with a hearing at the office of administrative hearings.

Services We Provide for Ignition Interlock Cases

Every case is different and every case is unique. So the facts of the case are going to determine whether or not it makes sense to challenge the installation of the ignition interlock device.

Whether a client wants an ignition interlock in exchange for driving privileges, or whether a client wants to avoid an ignition interlock is going to depend on the individual client’s driving needs. Some people have absolutely no choice. They need to be able to operate a motor vehicle anytime any place in order to make a living, in order to handle obligations. Those individuals will install the ignition interlock device if the alternative is no driving.

Other individuals may be able to function by getting rides from friends or family members or by taking public transportation.  For those people, the ignition interlock device maybe more trouble than its worth, particularly because the suspension that it’s avoiding is usually going to be shorter than the period of time that individuals require to maintain the ignition interlock device in their vehicle.