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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > What is an Ignition Interlock System in Virginia?

What is an Ignition Interlock System in Virginia?


Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is a dangerous and often deadly practice. Even though Virginia employs strict laws and harsh penalties against such behaviors, drunk drivers continue to cause injuries, deaths and property damage every year.

In order to reduce the potential harm from repeat offenders, Virginia requires certain criminal offenders to install an ignition interlock system. These systems test the driver for intoxication when starting a vehicle. If the driver is intoxicated or refuses to take the test, the vehicle will not start. On a larger level, ignition interlock systems help prevent repeat DUI offenses and any related harm or injury.

What is the Definition of an Ignition Interlock System?

The definition of an ignition interlock system appears in Code of Virginia Section 18.2-270.1. To be valid in Virginia, an ignition interlock system must be able to:

  • Measure the driver’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC);
  • Prevent the vehicle from starting if the driver registers a BAC above 0.02;
  • Conduct rolling retests at random intervals while the vehicle is in operation; and
  • Create an electronic log of successful and attempted ignitions, BAC levels and rolling retests.

What is the Definition of a Rolling Retest?

Section 18.2-270.1 also provides the definition of a rolling retest. Essentially, these retests occur at random intervals after the driver starts their vehicle. When prompted, the driver must register a new BAC test.

During a rolling retest, vehicle’s horn and lights will go off if the driver:

  • Fails to register a new test within the required timeframe; or
  • Registers a test with a BAC level above 0.02.

When is it Required to Install an Ignition Interlock System?

Section 18.2-270.1 outlines two situations in which an offender must install an ignition interlock system. A person must adhere to ignition interlock system requirement after a conviction for:

  • Driving under the influence (Code of Virginia Section 18.2-266); or
  • Maiming another person while driving under the influence (Code of Virginia Section 18.2-51.4).

Both of the crimes above feature a mandatory period of driver’s license suspension or revocation. During that time period — or as a condition of a restricted driving permit — the driver must install and utilize an ignition interlock system. Otherwise, the driver will not be able to regain full driving privileges.

What are the Penalties for Violating Ignition Interlock Requirements?

If a person disregards ignition interlock system requirements, it qualifies as a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. The normal penalties for a Class 1 misdemeanor include confinement in county jail for up to 12 months and fines up to $2,500.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you have legal questions about DUI or ignition interlock systems in Virginia, it can be markedly favorable to reach out to an adept criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Simms Showers LLP have proven experience with DUIs and ignition interlock systems in Virginia. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.



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