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When Do Virginia Drunk Drivers Need An Ignition Interlock System?


On top of criminal penalties and fines for drunk driving in Virginia, DUI offenders may need to install an ignition interlock system on their vehicle. These systems help prevent further episodes of intoxicated or impaired driving by measuring the driver’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). Ignition interlock systems are not necessary in every case.

What is an Ignition Interlock System?

Under Code of Virginia Section 18.2-270.1, there are three components to an ignition interlock system, which refers to any device that:

  • Installs on the ignition system of a motor vehicle to measure the driver’s BAC;
  • Stops the motor vehicle from starting, if the driver’s BAC exceeds 0.02; and
  • Logs the driver’s BAC for every attempted ignition and logs randomly conducted rolling retests.

The term “rolling retest” has a statutory definition under Section 18.2-270.1. These tests occur at random intervals while the driver is operating their vehicle. A rolling retest will trigger the vehicle’s lights and horn if the driver:

  • Registers a BAC above 0.02; or
  • Fails to complete the rolling retest.

When is it Required to Install an Ignition Interlock System?

Under Section 18.2-270.1, ignition interlocks systems are typically required as a condition of a license restoration or a restricted license after a conviction for:

  • Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI), in violation of Code of Virginia Section 18.2-266; or
  • Maiming or causing serious injury to a person during a DUI/DWI offense, in violation of Code of Virginia Section 18.2-51.4.

A restricted license is available to certain DUI/DWI offenders upon a showing of hardship. During the license suspension or revocation period, a restricted license allows DUI/DWI offenders to drive for approved purposes, such as for school or work.

That being said, certain DUI/DWI offenders can avoid ignition interlock systems by simply waiting out their license suspension period. After a suspension period concludes — assuming payment of all fees and satisfaction of any other requirements — a person regains their driving privileges. But that is not the case for driver’s license revocation. Reinstatement can involve an ignition interlock system.

What Is the Penalty for Violating Ignition Interlock Rules?

The penalty for violating ignition interlock rules falls under Section 18.2-270.1. If the Virginia courts order a person to install an ignition interlock system on their vehicle, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor to:

  • Tamper with or attempt to circumvent the operation of an ignition interlock system;
  • Have someone else start or attempt to start the vehicle or perform any rolling retest; or
  • Obtain and operate any other vehicle without an ignition interlock system installed.

If convicted of this Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, the punishment can lead to criminal fines up to $2,500 and a maximum of 12 months in jail.

Contact Us Today for Help

If you need legal assistance with Virginia charges for DUI/DWI, we can help. Reach out to the Leesburg drunk driving attorneys at Simms Showers for help.

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Contact the Leesburg, Winchester & Loudoun County Attorneys of Simms Showers LLP today

Simms Showers LLP is conveniently located two blocks from the Loudoun County Courthouse. Our criminal defense firm offers a free phone consultation for criminal or personal injury cases. Se habla español. Call Simms Showers LLP for quality legal counsel today at 703-997-7821 or contact us online.

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