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New Virginia Law Adjusts Ignition Interlock Rules for DUI Offenders


A new Virginia law will relax the ignition interlock system requirements for first-time DUI offenders. Certain provisions of the new law took effect on July 1, 2020. Other provisions will not take effect until July 1, 2021.

Officially referred to as Senate Bill 439, this new measure changed the conditions for a restricted driving permit for certain DUI offenders. First-time offenders who meet specific conditions will simply have to install an ignition interlock system and comply with court-ordered requirements.

This new law also institutes new rules for remote alcohol monitoring devices, which allow better testing of blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) levels. In order to understand the significance of these changes, it will be helpful to review Virginia laws concerning ignition interlock systems and remote alcohol monitoring devices.

Ignition Interlock Systems

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-270.1 defines the term “ignition interlock system.” Under this section, this term refers to an approved device that:

  • Requires the driver to submit a BAC test before starting their vehicle;
  • Prevents the vehicle from starting, if the driver registers a BAC above 0.02;
  • Registers the results of the driver’s BAC levels for each test; and
  • Performs rolling retests at random intervals, while the vehicle is in operation.

In this context, the term “rolling retest” refers to random BAC testing that occurs while a person is driving. If the driver registers a BAC above 0.02 at any point while driving, it triggers the vehicle’s horn and lights. The same applies if a driver fails to register their BAC for a rolling retest.

Starting July 1, 2020, certain DUI offenders will be able to obtain a restricted driver’s license by agreeing to install an ignition interlock system for a minimum of 12 months. In order to qualify, the DUI offender must be to demonstrate that:

  • It was a first-time DUI conviction;
  • The offender was an adult at the time of conviction; and
  • The driver’s BAC was less than 0.15 while committing DUI.

Any person who violates Section 18.2-270.1 by tampering with — or attempting to tamper with — an ignition interlock system is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Upon conviction, the statutory penalty can include a 12-month jail sentence and up to $2,500 in criminal fines, either or both.

In addition, any person who commits – or attempts to commit – such a violation can face permanent revocation of their driving privileges.

Remote Alcohol Monitoring Devices

Section 18.2-270.1 also establishes the definition of a “remote alcohol monitoring device.” These devices are not connected to a vehicle. Rather, a person wears or uses the device to register their BAC at certain intervals. Remote alcohol monitoring devices can be configured for scheduled, random, or on-demand BAC tests.

Starting July 1, 2021, when a person does not qualify for a restricted license under the ignition interlock program, there is an alternate route available. The Virginia courts may award a restricted license if the DUI offender agrees to:

  • Use or a wear a remote alcohol monitoring device for a period of time;
  • Only operate motor vehicles with an ignition interlock system for the same period; and
  • Abstain from consuming alcohol through the same period.

Any person who violates Section 18.2-270.1 by tampering with — or attempting to tamper with — a remote alcohol monitoring device is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Upon conviction, the offender faces the same statutory penalty described in the previous section.

In addition, any person who commits – or attempts to commit – such a violation will have their driver’s license revoked.

Contact Us Today for Help

If you need legal help with Virginia charges for DUI or other criminal offenses, it can be extremely valuable to contact an established Virginia DUI defense attorney. The attorneys at Simms Showers LLP have represented many criminal defendants against a variety of charges, including DUI. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.


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