Effective October 1, 2014, South Carolina law changed to make ignition interlock a factor in every DUI case. The change impacts arrests made October 1 or after. For arrests before October 1, only repeat offenders have to worry about ignition interlock.

Ignition Interlock Basics

Here are the basics of ignition interlock, if you have to get it:

  • How it works. Ignition interlock is a device installed in the ignition system of your car that gives you a breath alcohol test before your car will start. Compared to the breath test machine officers try to get you to blow into at arrest, it’s relatively small. But if you have someone with you, there’s no way to hide that you’re blowing into it. If the device detects even a small amount of alcohol, your car won’t start.
  • Getting a device. Ignition interlock devices must be approved by the State. The agency responsible for monitoring ignition interlock is the agency best known for its watchful eye: the probation department. The Probation Department has information online about currently approved interlock devices. To be approved, the device must take your picture when you give the test, so the State can more easily detect violators who get someone else to blow for them.
  • Cost and maintenance. Ignition interlock installation is expensive and burdensome. You pay a monthly fee for the system. Device manufacturers generally do not publish the costs. Devices must be inspected regularly, forcing you to take the time to take your car for inspection. Failure to get timely inspections could mean your car won’t start.
  • Penalties for violations. Attempting to start the car with a blood alcohol concentration as low as .02% causes an increasing scale of violation points against you. The more points you get, the more penalties you get. Penalties range from lengthening your interlock requirement, to requiring an alcohol drug safety action program assessment that could lead to you to completing a costly, time-consuming treatment program, up to license suspension.
  • It is a crime to avoid the device. If you’re required to use an interlock, driving without one is a criminal offense punishable by up to a year in prison plus an extension of interlock for an additional six months. And that’s for a first offense. There are only a few limited exceptions. Trying to sidestep interlock requirements in other ways is also a crime, including having someone else blow in the device or even asking him to.

Ignition interlock is an extremely tough new penalty for DUI offenders. Often the best hope in avoiding it is by presenting the best defenses to fight off an initial license suspension and conviction. Unfortunately, DUI cases tend to be very complex legally. Worse, if you’re not experienced defending these cases, it can be a daunting task to convince a jury that a police officer was mistaken, since the jury’s full of drivers who want to protect themselves from drunk drivers.

If you’re facing a potential sentence involving ignition interlock in Spartanburg or Greenville or nearby, feel free to schedule a free meeting to discuss how we might give you the best shot at avoiding ignition interlock. You can call us toll free at 888-230-1841, or use our live chat feature right from where you are.

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Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.