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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > Understanding Virginia’s Ignition Interlock Law

Understanding Virginia’s Ignition Interlock Law

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence in Virginia, you likely have a ton of questions about what you should do and how you will get through this trying time. Here, it is important to realize that you have rights, and it is up to you to protect those rights and hold your life together. One way that many drivers are able to continue to live normal lives and maintain jobs is through an often misunderstood program known as ignition interlock.

What is an ignition interlock device?

Every state has some variation of an ignition interlock law. These programs have proven quite effective at curbing repeat DUI offenses. Here is how it works. Once the court determines that you must have a device installed, you will be required to watch a brief video introduction to ignition interlock devices and how they are operated. Next, you will review and sign an agreement stating that you understand your rights, you understand why the device is being installed, and attesting that you will abide by all terms and conditions of the program. Finally, a locally contracted service provider will install the device in your vehicle. This device will prevent or “lock” the ignition so that the engine cannot be started until the device sends a signal to the ignition. In order to unlock the ignition, you must blow into the device and register a low enough blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). If you are intoxicated, the device will know and will not start your vehicle.

Can I just use the device to check when I am good to drive?

Not really. Perhaps in theory one could just go out to the car and begin checking BAC. But this will not get you out of the driveway any faster. There are several key principles of operation that you must understand. These devices have been very carefully engineered to prevent you from tricking the device or cheating the system.

Cheating the Device

You must “blow” below the legal limit. If you register a .000% BAC too quickly after blowing a 0.02% BAC, the device will shut down and you will have to wait even longer. This is to prevent people from blowing “hot”, so to speak, then having someone else blow into the device for them.

Rolling Re-test

It is not enough to just blow once and drive. Within a few minutes of starting the vehicle and driving away, you will have to blow again to demonstrate continued absence of alcohol. You will be permitted a few minutes to pull over if you need to do so to safely operate the device. Then, after you have been driving a while, you will be required to blow once every hour or so, depending on the system you are using.

How long do I have to use the device?

This is entirely up to the trial court that sentences you. However, in Virginia, the minimum is six months. For more details about the general rules of ignition interlock in Virginia, you read more information through LifeSafer.

As you can see, being convicted of a DUI is not the end of the world. There are options that can permit you to keep a job and still drive. However, these restrictions can be incredibly challenging and place huge limitations on your daily life. If you drive an employer-owned vehicle, you may lose your job, because your employer will probably not be okay with their vehicle being outfitted with an interlock device. And you cannot drive it unless it is. Therefore, you need the most aggressive and skilled defense possible before you are convicted, not after. If you need help with a DUI charge in Leesburg or Prince William county, call Simms Showers, LLP today for a free consultation.

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