So You Have an Interlock Ignition Device (IID) Installed for Your Vehicle…what happens if you fail an ignition interlock test?

Why You Have It/What it Does

If you have been found guilty of a DUI/DWI, there is a high likelihood that you have been required by court order/state legislation to install an Interlock Ignition Device (IID).

This is not a punishment, but a preventative measure. Obviously, if you have been convicted of driving while intoxicated – for the safety of yourself and others – nobody wants you to do that again.

Most states require a conviction of a two-time offense, but some states mentioned in this article require only a one-time offense for the installation to be mandated.

The idea behind stricter legislation is merely to crack down on DUI/DWI offenses and decrease the number of cases, accidents, harms, deaths, etc. on the road.

Ultimately, this makes the road a much safer environment on which everyone may drive. The length of time the IID must be kept is variant upon your state, your case(s) against you, and the judge’s ruling.

If for some reason, you are unaware of the length of time you have to keep it, you can contact your attorney about the duration of your probation – as that is the same length of time most IID’s are kept.

How it Works

You may be so far unaware of how exactly your IID works. According to Ignition Interlock Help (IIH):

“An ignition interlock device (IID) is a device about the size of a cell phone that is connected to a motor vehicle’s [ignition] system. The IID works by measuring the blood alcohol concentration/content (BAC) of the driver before and during the operation of the vehicle. The driver will be required to blow into the ignition interlock device in order to start their vehicle. Provided their BAC is below the programmed level, the vehicle will start as normal. If the driver’s BAC is higher than the preprogrammed level that was set by the state, the vehicle will not start. The courts in each state determine the programmed level, typically .02%, depending on the state law.”

From this passage, we can derive: individual states set the level of alcohol content. This may indeed be below the legal BAC, which is .08%.

It may be in your best interest to anticipate a level of .02%, or approximate, as this passage notes it as a general limit.

However, the obvious best case scenario is one in which there is no alcohol on your breath before getting behind the wheel.

If you are curious to know exact limits within your state, you can check your particular state’s laws via IIH’s web page linked above, or the seventeen (stricter) states linked below.

It is worth noting that according to, Nichols & Green PLLC, alcohol based mouthwash can give a false reading on your BAC and by extension the IID – which uses the same technology. They state if you try to start your vehicle within ten minutes of using said mouthwash, you will likely fail your breathalyzer.

This is probably a good time to either ditch this type of mouthwash for a period, or else get the timing just right for it to work. This problem may also occur with any foods which contain active/uncooked alcoholic ingredients such as rum cake, or filled chocolates and the like.

If the food is cooked in wine/whiskey/vodka/etc. this may not pertain to give a BAC substantial enough to fail. Typically, one cannot be intoxicated by cooked alcohol; its chemical composition has been changed – and some of it “burns off” while cooking – therefore it has an insignificant BAC to be read.

If you are unsure of the level of alcohol on a particular food, and want to still drive, you can abstain or instruct that particular ingredient to be removed from the item in question. Otherwise, you may have to wait a short period (at least ten minutes or more) before submitting a breath sample for your IID.

Ignition Interlock Help(2) claims:

All 50 states as well as the District of Columbia have enacted ignition interlock laws, the last being Alabama’s law that went into effect in September, 2012…these laws require interlock devices for the following offenses:

  • Repeat DUI offenses
  • Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) greater than .15
  • DUI with a minor in the vehicle
  • DUI with an accident and/or injury

IID’s are required in the following states if you’ve been guilty of a first offense DUI/DWI: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

Camera/No Camera on the IID

In Virginia and Washington states, a camera is also required with the installation of the IID. Some may wonder, “Why a camera at all?” It is possible that a friend/relative could submit a clean sample of breath which would allow you to start your car.

This is a problem as the intent behind the IID is again for yours and others’ safety. If you are intoxicated/under the influence, enough that you cannot start your vehicle, you should not be allowed to drive it.

The camera installation acts as a quick identification scan to ensure that it is you submitting your BAC sample. Within these states, this is a requirement regardless of the circumstances of your DUI.

Rolling Re-Test:

According to Ignition Interlock Info:

“…ignition interlock devices and breathalyzer devices require the user to submit “rolling re-tests” while operating a vehicle. A rolling re-test is another blow test after you begin driving. These re-tests are required to ensure the driver is not drinking and driving in the vehicle after their first test. Rolling re-tests are required by state law and conducted the exact same way as the first blow test provided, yet there are a few things that need to be considered…This first re-test can be anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes at random depending on state regulations….The device will signal for the re-test by displaying text on the LED screen, as well as give a signal or noise to notify that another blow test is required. Then, simply provide the sample just like you would to start your vehicle. If you do not feel safe taking the re-test while driving, the device gives you enough time to comfortably pull the vehicle over in order to provide your sample…As long as the vehicle is running, the device will continue to require re-tests at a minimum of once every hour, also depending on state regulations.”

Therefore it is important to be present in your vehicle as long as it is running.

The article, linked/quoted above, goes on further to explain what happens should you fail to submit a re-test when required.

Generally your lights will start flashing and your horn will start going off. On top of losing some control of your vehicle, this is intended to get the notice of an officer who will likely make you pull over anyway. In short, it is best to make sure to give your rolling re-test sample, pull over if you don’t feel safe, and drive on once clearing your re-test.

Failing the IID:

Failure to pass your IID test, according to Intoxalock, means:

“… your vehicle will not start. In some states, your interlock may enter into a temporary lock out, preventing you from submitting another sample for a few minutes. Once the temporary lockout is over, you will be able to submit another sample. Once you pass the test, you will be able to start your vehicle. In many states, too many failed attempts to start your vehicle will cause your device to go into a service lockout.”

It cannot be emphasized enough that this device is intended for yours and others’ safety. The last thing, anyone wants of a first or second time DUI/DWI offender to do is repeat his/her mistakes while driving.

You may feel frustrated to have to use such a device, but this is a chance to grow and learn. Everybody makes mistakes, and the thing you must learn from this is to not repeat them.

Maybe on your last DUI offense all you did was swerve a tiny bit, but this doesn’t mean that will be the only outcome from your drinking and driving habit.

The law is here to keep you from forming that habit, because the sad truth is: many people – often unintoxicated drivers and pedestrians – are maimed or killed by these incidents.

You could just as easily have been maimed or killed from your first DUI. The point is to take that possibility out of the equation and keep everyone safe and able to keep driving. Please drive safely.

Reference List

https://www.ignitioninterlockhelp.com/blog/does-my-state-mandate-an-iid-with-camera/

https://www.ignitioninterlockhelp.com/how-does-an-ignition-interlock-work/

https://www.ignitioninterlockhelp.com/iid-state-mandates-laws

https://ignitioninterlockinfo.com/how-to-use-an-ignition-interlock-device/retests/