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Smart ignition interlock devices

“Smart” technology is probably all too familiar to you. You probably already have a smartphone. You may even have a smart speaker, a car with over the top smart features and a robot vacuum that knows your home better than you do.

If you get a drunk driving conviction (DUI) in most states, you will now be introduced to a newer version of an extremely intelligent ignition interlock device (IID), also known as a car breathalyzer.

The old, easily “circumventable” interlocks of just a few years ago are long gone. If you enter an interlock program now, you will most likely have a camera taking your picture at every test and in a growing number of states the results of your test will be transmitted in real time with GPS coordinates.

Is this change the result of ignition interlock companies upselling customers to make more money? Nope.  Interlock pricing has hardly moved and with marketing incentives in most states they have actually gone down. This rapid move to high tech devices has a very unlikely source: DUI defense attorneys.

You would think these attorneys want to get their clients out of having an IID in the first place, right? In most cases, the answer is actually no. Interlock devices are required for legal driving privileges and if you ask any defense attorney, the one thing that is most important to their clients is to not lose the ability to drive.

Benefits of advanced technology ignition interlocks

Ignition interlock devices are the key to attorneys preserving their client’s ability to drive, but not just any device. A defense attorney’s job is to zealously represent their client and protect their rights. Most vehicles are driven by many household members and cameras are key to an attorney proving that a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) reading was from someone else in the household.

Without a camera to provide further evidence, defendants are at the mercy of a judge believing their explanation for a BAC violation showing up in their ignition interlock reporting. A smart defense attorney won’t put his or her client in that position. Real-time reporting of data may seem like a luxury, but without the proper technology established it is not.

Drivers want their license fully reinstated as soon as they legally can. If one has to wait for a final manual download of the device data, and the transfer of that data to the state’s motor vehicle department, it could add weeks to when they can legally remove the interlock and be reinstated.

Knowing that is unacceptable for their clients, DUI defense attorneys have been a driving force in requiring interlocks to have these advanced features. For example, the most recent state to require interlock devices for all offenders, Iowa, saw their legislation not only supported by defense attorneys but, for the most part, it was also written by them.

As a result, the Iowa DOT (Department of Transportation) is upping the device standards and cameras will be a part of every interlock installed very soon. In state after state, criminal defense lawyers are pushing for these changes.

How far has this trend spread? As of June 2018, the older interlock devices have fallen to only 30% of the ignition interlock fleet, and that number is rapidly dropping. If you are currently using one of these devices, you might want to take a picture of it.  Soon the only place you will see them are in museums…right next to the flip phones.


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Brad Fralick is the Director of External Affairs for Intoxalock by Consumer Safety Technology Inc. Previously Mr. Fralick administered the Illinois Secretary of State’s Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device Program from January of 2003 to January of 2007.  Prior to that he was the Executive Director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving of Illinois (1997-2002) and before that he was the Legislative Director for a large association. Mr. Fralick has served on numerous traffic safety boards and is Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers based in Washington DC, which represents the three largest ignition interlock providers in the US and comprises 80% of the entire industry. Mr. Fralick also testifies in court and administrative proceedings on alcohol toxicology and interlock technology and is certified to instruct Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses for attorneys in 29 states.

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