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Everything you need to know about ignition interlock devices

If you are convicted of a second or subsequent DUI offense in Pennsylvania, you will face multiple consequences. Among the penalties will be a suspension of your driver’s license for 12 to 18 months. Anyone who has been convicted of two or more DUIs are required to install ignition interlock devices in every vehicle that they drive. These devices have to be installed in all of your vehicles before you will be allowed to apply to restore your license. If you do not comply with this law, you can face serious penalties. Drivers who are caught driving vehicles without ignition interlock devices when they are required to have them may face stiff fines, jail, and an additional suspension of their licenses. At DiCindio Law, we can help you to understand your obligations so that you do not violate your ignition interlock device requirements. We are also prepared to defend you against DUI charges and violations of the ignition interlock device laws.

What are ignition interlock devices?

Ignition interlock devices are electronic instruments that are designed to keep you from starting your vehicle when you have alcohol on your breath. Under Pennsylvania law, judges can order you to install an ignition interlock device in every car that you drive when you have been convicted of two or more drunk driving offenses. If you were convicted of the highest BAC DUI offense, you will also be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicles. Finally, if you refused a breath, blood, or urine test after you were arrested for a suspected DUI, you will also be required to install an ignition interlock device in Pennsylvania.

How do ignition interlock devices work?

Ignition interlock devices are wired into your vehicles’ ignitions. When you try to start one of your cars, you will have to blow into the tube of the ignition interlock device. The device will then detect whether there is alcohol on your breath. If alcohol is present, you won’t be able to start your vehicle. Most ignition interlock devices have lock-out periods that will prevent you from starting your car if your breath contains more than the threshold amount of alcohol. Typically, the lock-out period will last for longer periods with each failed breath test.

If you pass the initial breath test on the ignition interlock device, you will be able to start your car and drive. However, ignition interlock devices will conduct rolling retests. These are random times while you are driving that you will be signaled to provide another breath test within a set amount of time. You are expected to pull over to the side of the road or into a parking lot to breathe into the tube again. If you do not do so, your horn might begin honking or an alarm might go off to prompt you to turn your car off. The device will not turn your moving car off if you fail a retest for safety reasons. However, it might save the information about your failed retest and submit it electronically to the provider. This can result in you being charged with a violation of the ignition interlock device laws in Pennsylvania.

What are the requirements in Pennsylvania for ignition interlock devices?

If you have been ordered to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicles, you are required to do so. You should not drive someone else’s car that does not have an ignition interlock device installed. Your device will not allow your vehicle to start if it detects that you have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02% or higher. At random times while you are driving, you will be required to submit additional breath samples as was described above. If you blow above 0.02% during a rolling test, the device will shut your vehicle’s engine off and prevent you from restarting your car during the lock-out period. If you do not respond to a signal to complete a rolling retest, the device will record your violation but will not shut your moving vehicle off because of safety issues.

An ignition interlock device works in a similar way to a breathalyzer machine. The breathalyzer machine is the device that police officers use to measure your BAC at the police station following a DUI arrest.

The law requires you to install ignition interlock devices in every vehicle that you own or lease. You must also apply for a restricted license and cannot drive other vehicles that do not have ignition interlock devices installed. You will not be eligible for an unrestricted license or to have the ignition interlock device removed from your car until you have driven with the device for one year.

The state has only approved specific companies to install ignition interlock devices that have been court-ordered. The companies that have been approved to install ignition interlock devices that have been court-ordered in southeastern Pennsylvania include the following:

If you are ordered by the court to install an ignition interlock device, you will use one of these companies for the installation and monitoring.

Who is required to have an ignition interlock device installed?

In Pennsylvania, the following people are required to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles:

These devices are mandated when the state believes that you have not shown that you can drive a vehicle free from alcohol.

Can you drive after asking someone else to blow into the ignition interlock device?

While it is possible to start your vehicle after having someone else blow into your ignition interlock device, do not do so. It can lead to charges. Most of these devices require voice commands before they will begin working. The devices identify you by the sound of your voice, and your commands are difficult for others to copy. If you fail a rolling retest or ignore a prompt for one, your failure will be recorded and reported to the court. This could result in more charges and additional penalties. If you have been ordered to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle, do not drink before you get behind the wheel.

What happens if you fail the breath test on the ignition interlock device?

Ignition interlock devices are designed to alert the police if you fail to pass a breath test. If you fail, your car’s horn, brakes, and lights may sound to draw attention from the police. Even if the police do not respond, trying to trick your ignition interlock device can be very embarrassing.

Who is responsible for paying for an ignition interlock device?

If you are ordered to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicles, you will have to pay for it. The total cost of the device will depend on the company that you choose to install it from the list of approved providers. You will have to pay for both the device’s installation and its maintenance. Ignition interlock devices are not cheap. You can expect to pay around $1,000 to $1,200 for the installation of your device.

Exemptions to the requirements for ignition interlock devices in Pennsylvania

There are a few, very limited exemptions available to certain drivers who have been required to install ignition interlock devices. If installing ignition interlock devices on every vehicle that you own or lease would place a substantial and undue financial hardship on you, you can apply for a financial hardship exemption. For example, if you have three vehicles in your name, a financial hardship exemption might allow you to install an ignition interlock device on only one vehicle instead of all three. However, you would not be allowed to drive the other two vehicles that are in your name, and you will likewise be forbidden from driving any vehicles that are in other people’s names that do not have ignition interlock devices installed.

Another potential exemption is the employment exemption. This exemption is limited to drivers who must drive vehicles that are owned by their employers during the course and scope of their jobs. To apply for this exemption, you must notify your employer of your ignition interlock device restriction and keep a notarized copy of the notification of your employer. If you are self-employed and drive a vehicle that you own as a part of your job, you will not be eligible for the employment exemption for the ignition interlock device restriction on your vehicle. This exemption is also not available for you if you drive a school vehicle or a vehicle to carry a large number of passengers for your job.

Violations of the ignition interlock device requirements in Pennsylvania

If you violate the ignition interlock device requirements in Pennsylvania, you will face serious penalties. The different types of violations and their penalties include the following:

  • Driving a car without an ignition interlock device – Jail for up to 90 days, Fine from $300 to $1,000, and an ungraded misdemeanor conviction on your record
  • Driving a car without an ignition interlock device when your BAC is greater than 0.025% – Minimum of 90 days in jail, $1,000 fine, and a third-degree misdemeanor on your record
  • Tampering with an ignition interlock device – Jail for up to 90 days, fine of $300 to $1,000, and an ungraded misdemeanor on your record

Tampering with an ignition interlock device includes attempting to remove or disable the device or asking someone else to breathe into the tube for you. Besides the penalties that are listed above, you might be ordered to have another period of license suspension and another period of an ignition interlock device. If you are given another license suspension, it will not run concurrently with your current suspension. Instead, it will not begin until your current suspension ends.

Get help from DiCindio Law

If you are facing DUI charges or have been charged with violating the ignition interlock device laws in Pennsylvania, you should seek legal help from DiCindio Law. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 610.430.3535 or by submitting your information on our online contact form.

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Michael DiCindio

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