Trying to Trick Ignition Interlock Devices

Posted by Coleen D. St. Clair | Apr 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

More and more jurisdictions are requiring ignition interlock devices, or IIDs, for DUI convictions, and they are being championed as a technological deterrent to reducing repeated drunk driving. An IID installed on a car requires the driver to pass a breath test in order for their car to start, and to continue driving. Washington is one of a number states that require an IID for all DUI offenses, including first-time DUIs. However, some people ordered to use an IID are looking for ways around the device.

Ignition interlocks reduce recidivism for both first-timers and repeat DUI offenders, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Despite this benefit, some offenders will go to great lengths to bypass the device. However, it is extremely difficult to bypass the IID through tampering. Most IIDs have anti-circumvention technology built in, and tampering with the device will be logged and reported. If a driver tampers with an IID, or attempts to bypass the device, their driving privileges will be suspended. They are likely to face immediate jail time for violating the conditions of their release pending trial or conditions of their sentence.  Even with the threat of a misdemeanor tampering charges,  or jail consequences, some people are attempting to cash in on drivers' desire to trick the machines.

When a driver is ordered to install an IID after a DUI, they are also responsible for paying for installation and regular maintenance. Although, there is assistance available for low income DUI drivers. Despite the high costs of a DUI, and the significant investment in an IID, some driver's are not deterred from looking for a work-around to the IIDs intended use.

As people look to fool the IID, technology has evolved to address various tricks. If a driver tries to get someone else to blow into the machine, all Washington IIDs now have cameras to catch the culprits. Helping someone to bypass an IID can also lead to criminal penalties. Others try to carry a balloon inflated with a clean breath, but if the camera doesn't catch them, the machine may have the driver hum into the device or inhale, which a balloon cannot do.

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One device available online claims to be able to beat the ignition interlock device. An Omaha news team put the device to the test. While they found that while the device worked on a field breathalyzer, it failed to pass the IID.

The easiest way to get around an IID may be through driving another vehicle not equipped with the breath testing device. However, in many states, including Washington, IID regulations require convicted drivers to drive only vehicles equipped with an IID. If you are caught driving a vehicle without you will face additional criminal charges. 

For people who drive as part of their job, their employer may submit an Employer Declaration for Ignition Interlock Exemption so they can drive a company vehicle without an IID. KOMO 4 called this work-around a DUI loophole, and cited a number of U.S. Postal Service workers who were driving work vehicles even after they were required to install IIDs on their cars.

Some people are embarrassed to drive with an IID. This is sending them shopping for options. Two companies now manufacture IID covers to make the device look like something much more innocent. The devices fit around the IID, and makes it look like  a large drink cup  with a straw. Instead of people on the road seeing a driver blow into an interlock device, it looks like the driver is taking a sip from a convenience store cup.

About the Author

Coleen D. St. Clair

Ms. St. Clair is a former senior prosecuting attorney with over 25 years experience handling criminal cases. She has successfully handled tens of thousands of criminal and DUI cases with remarkable results.

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