If you've recently been charged with a DWI, you are probably nervous about the possibility of losing your driver's license. The loss of driving privileges can be challenging for most people, especially when a vehicle is necessary to commute back and forth to work. Fortunately, many states have adopted laws requiring DWI offenders have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles.
This has allowed offenders to continue to drive to work and other essential places, such as a doctor's office and mandated DWI classes, while keeping the offenders and the public safe on roadways. In fact, in states that have adopted ignition interlock laws, there has been a 30% reduction in DWI-related fatalities. Here's what you need to know about ignition interlock devices.
Separate issue from criminal court proceedings
The first thing that is important to understand is that your state will handle your driver's license issues in a separate case from your criminal court proceedings. The simple fact that you failed a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test (based on your state's legal limits) may mean you will need to meet requirements to continue driving legally even if your DWI charges are reduced or dropped altogether in criminal court. Of course, this does depend on the laws of your state, which is why it's important to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest.
The notifications you'll receive in the mail
Depending on your state, you will receive a notice of suspension of your driver's license from the Department of Transportation, Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Public Safety or other similar entity. You will also receive a restoration requirements letter. This is the letter that will tell you what you need to do to restore your suspended driver's license. Typically, this letter will tell you to get a limited license from the driver's licensing authority in your state and an ignition interlock device from a local authorized service provider.
Taking your vehicle to have the device installed
You'll need to meet several requirements before the mechanic can install the device in your vehicle. You will need to have your limited license already and you'll need to pay for the service. Depending on your state, you may need to pay for the device or lease it on a monthly basis. Some states also charge a monthly service fee. You may be asked to have a licensed driver accompany you to the installation service center, in case you fail the breathalyzer to start your vehicle after the device is installed.
Blowing & going without failures or violations
Ignition interlock devices are usually set to fail a breathalyzer when it detects alcohol as low as .02% to .04%. To avoid failing the breathalyzer, of course you'll want to avoid consuming alcohol, but there are also a few other things to avoid. Certain foods, medications and hygiene products can give a false-positive reading.
If you have any food that contains yeast on your breath, the breathalyzer may give you a fail or violation. The reason for this is because yeast can produce a tiny amount of alcohol when it ferments. For this reason, you will want to refrain from eating pizza and pastries immediately before trying to start your vehicle. You'll also want to avoid eating anything with vanilla extract, which contains at least 35% alcohol.
Avoid taking cough medication or using cough drops that list alcohol or ethanol as an ingredient. Do not use mouthwash that contains alcohol. If you are worried about failing or violating a test, wait 15 minutes and rinse your mouth out with some water. It may be a good idea to keep some bottled water in your vehicle for these situations.