What is an ignition interlock device (IID) and when am I required to install one?

Ignition interlock devices accompany OWI penalties.  In this article we explain what they are and when you need to install one.

The ignition interlock device is perhaps the most visible clue that someone is actively being punished for an OWI.  We see these devices portrayed in movies and throughout the media, sometimes for humorous purposes.  But if you’ve ever been required to install an IID, you know it’s no laughing matter.  These devices are expensive, finicky, and sometimes cause a great deal of trouble.

The only way to avoid the ignition interlock device requirement is to avoid a conviction for certain OWI offenses.  The drunk driving lawyers at Van Severen Law Office, S.C. are consistently recognized throughout Wisconsin as being some of the state’s best.  Whether you’re facing a 1st offense (in certain circumstances subject to an IID requirement) or any other offense, we can help.  Together we’ll explore potential pre-trial motions, your right to trial, and all other issues in your case to explore whether avoiding a conviction is possible.

Finally, we offer free initial consultations to potential clients.  During an initial consultation you’ll have the opportunity to sit down with one of our drunk driving defense lawyers.  You’ll have a chance to discuss the facts of your case, your concerns, and any other issues that are present.  Then you’ll have the opportunity to hire our OWI defense lawyers for the remainder of your case.  Contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202 to schedule a consultation and to begin discussing your drunk driving charges.

free consultation client testimonials

What is an ignition interlock device?

An ignition interlock device is a cell phone sized device that is wired to your vehicle’s ignition.  After installation, an IID requires you to provide breath samples before starting a vehicle, and sometimes while a vehicle is operational.  If the device detects alcohol in the breath sample, the engine will not start.  In circumstances where the vehicle is moving, the device provides an audible signal indicating that the driver must pull over and provide a breath sample within a set amount of minutes.  Once the driver pulls over, if any alcohol is detected, the IID locks out the vehicle, prohibiting it from moving further.

Intoxalock is one of the larger companies that provides IID installation services in Wisconsin.  Intoxalock indicates that it “services more than 100,000 customers annually and is an industry leading provider of ignition interlock devices. Our excellent customer support, proven accuracy and convenient locations are all reasons customers choose Intoxalock over other providers.”  Importantly, Intoxalock also advertises that it has more installation locations than any other company providing IID services.  Our drunk driving defense lawyers have not independently verified the information Intoxalock provided.  Certainly the validity of these claims may change with time.

Lifesafer is another IID company our clients have regularly worked with.  Lifesafer advertises itself as a company that’s been doing business for over 30 years and installed IID devices for over 1.5 million drivers.  Additionally, they indicate that customers can complete the sign-up process completely online, and that installations are guaranteed to occur on the same day.

Both companies include outdated OWI penalties on their websites and should not be relied on for legal advice regarding your sentence.  The drunk driving lawyer that represented you at sentencing is in the best position to answer any questions regarding your IID.

Which Wisconsin OWI offenses require an ignition interlock installation?

As we indicated in the beginning of this article, not all Wisconsin OWI convictions include an IID requirement.  To be very clear: the only OWI conviction that does not require an IID is a 1st offense with a blood alcohol content under a .15.  Other IID requirements include:

  • 1st offense (BAC over .15): 1 year
  • 2nd offense12 to 18 months
  • 3rd or subsequent offense: 12 – 36 months
  • Chemical test refusal (1st offense): 1 year

Importantly, ignition interlock requirements attach on top of any term of confinement.  For example, if you’re required to serve 3 months in jail and install an IID for 12 months, your total IID requirement is the 12 months plus the 3 month term of confinement.

What if I can’t afford it?

Courts consider financial hardship exceptions to the warrant requirement in two circumstances:

In the first circumstance, if the defendant earns less than 150% of the Federal Poverty Level ($13,590.00 for individuals in 2022 – 150% totaling $20,385.00), he may qualify to pay 50% of the regular cost of equipping (both installation and removal) each motor vehicle he owns with an IID.  Additionally, the defendant may be allowed to pay 50% of the cost per day per vehicle for routine fees.  There are no provisions for a reduction in any other fee that may be assessed by an ignition interlock provider.  Driver license revocation periods cannot be reduced because of any kind of financial hardship.

In the second circumstance, section 343.301(1m)(a) of the Wisconsin Statutes indicates:

If equipping each motor vehicle with an ignition interlock device under sub. (1g) would cause an undue financial hardship, the court may order that one or more vehicles described in sub. (1g) not be equipped with an ignition interlock device.

While the first circumstance provides hard numbers, obviously achieving a financial hardship exception under the second is more difficult.  This is especially the case, and courts have a hard time granting this exception, because obviously the defendant found enough money to drink, get drunk, and drive.

the ignition on a vehicle in Wisconsin
Ignition interlock devices are required for nearly all OWI convictions. Contact Van Severen Law Office at (414) 270-0202 to attempt to fight your charges and avoid this consequence.

Contact Van Severen Law Office, S.C. for OWI representation

Many consequences come with an OWI conviction, and the requirement to install an ignition interlock device is one of them.  These devices are incredibly expensive, and we’ve had clients complain about various aspects of the devices – that they alert at inconvenient times, that they send false positives, and that they create other issues with their vehicles.

The only way to avoid many of these consequences is to avoid a conviction entirely.  And once you’re charged, there are only a few ways to achieve that result.  Typically your options include filing a pre-trial motion that excludes a crucial piece of state evidence, or winning at trial.  The drunk driving lawyers at Van Severen Law Office, S.C. are prepared to defend you throughout your case.  Contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202 to discuss how we can help.

icon-angle icon-bars icon-times