Written by attorney Steve Wayne Sumner

Ignition Interlock Devices: The New DataMaster?

I have blogged and commented before about the nightmare of ignition interlock devices. In the re-written DUI law in South Carolina in 2009, a key provision was that the judge on a DUI 2nd or above conviction no longer has the discretion of whether or not to require a defendant to install an IID on a vehicle. This is now mandatory in South Carolina for everyone with two or more DUI convictions within 10 years.

The "Cold Hard Facts" on IID's in South Carolina:

  1. The IID will be installed near the steering column and prevent the vehicle from starting if it detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of over .02.

  2. A person must install an IID on every vehicle that you routinely operate, regardless of who is shown on the registration.

  3. Most mouth washes and tooth paste will cause a positive breath alcohol result on the IID which will result in a violation.

  4. Often times eating doughnuts or pastries will trigger a positive result on the IID which will be a violation.

  5. While an IID is not required on a work vehicle; it is required on your work vehicle if you are self-employed or work for a family business.

  6. The minimum amount of time that you will have to have an IID will be for two (2) years after your license suspension period ends.

  7. All costs for installation and maintenance have to be paid for by the person.

  8. The IID must be “re-calibrated" every 60 days (this cost is borne by the person).

  9. Violations add to the length of time that the IID has to be on your car.

  10. The IID requirement is not voluntary; and if a person does not enroll in the program it is an additional three (3) year suspension of your drivers license.

  11. The driver has to periodically blow into the device while they are driving.

  12. The program is monitored by the South Carolina probation office.

MADD and several United States senators have recently come out hard pushing legislation that would provide 60 million dollars of federal government money for the development and implementation of IID's to be installed as standard equipment on all new cars sold within the United States within the next 5-10 years. This provision is part of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010.

It is probable that for legal and liability reasons these in-car alcohol detectors would have to be set around the .02 to .03 level. Extensive research is underway now to determine the best type device to install (a skin sensor on the steering wheel or an eye scanning device that would be a part of the rearview mirror). Of course, these devices would effectively eliminate responsible alcohol consumption prior to driving. Additionally, it has been repeatedly shown that these devices will "trip" or "trigger" over mouthwash, toothpaste and doughnuts. That's right, mouthwash, toothpaste and doughnuts will very often trigger an IID intending to check for alcohol.

In South Carolina, the only admissible alcohol testing device for DUI charges is the BAC DataMaster. A driver is presumed not guilty of DUI unless and until drunk driving can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and unanimously to a jury.

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