You Could Face Severe Penalties if You Fail to Install an Ignition Interlock Device in Your Car, Tamper With, or Attempt to Drive Without the Interlock in New Jersey.
New Jersey drunk driving laws carry a number of different penalties that can make life difficult for convicted DWI offenders. If you are convicted or plead guilty to DWI charges, one of those penalties will be a requirement to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. This device is attached to the car engine, and it’s similar to a breathalyzer in that it registers your blood alcohol content (BAC) when you blow into it. If you show a BAC above a certain limit, the engine won’t start. Since all DWI convictions come with an interlock penalty after the implementation of the state’s DWI reforms, failure to adhere to the court order to install the interlock device can result in additional penalties. The same is true if you attempt to tamper with the interlock device in any way, or if you bypass the device by using another person to blow a “clean” sample into it. Here, our experienced DWI lawyers discuss ignition interlock device offenses and the severe consequences associated with failure to abide by New Jersey interlock rules and regulations.
What are Interlock Devices?
An ignition interlock device is a small device that is installed in your vehicle and manually connected to the engine. Before you attempt to start the car, you will need to blow into a mouthpiece on the device and register a breath sample that is at .05% BAC or lower. If the device indicates a BAC of less than .05%, the engine will turn on and you will be able to drive the vehicle; anything higher than .05% and the engine will not start. You will also have to periodically blow into the device every few minutes while you are driving. Although the engine won’t simply turn off if you fail to provide a clean sample while driving, the court will be notified of the violation and you could face charges for Driving While Intoxicated.
New Jersey’s Implementation of Mandatory Interlock Device in Your Vehicle for a DWI
The NJ law requiring the installation of ignition interlock devices previously applied only to repeat offenders, as well as first offense DWIs with an extremely high BAC above .15%. But New Jersey legislators recently changed the law so that there is a mandatory interlock period across the board for all DWI offenses, including first offenses. This means that if you are charged with drunk driving and later plead guilty or are convicted of the charges, you will be subject to the interlock device penalty. The good news is that the law was also changed so that a DWI offender is no longer subject to an automatic suspension of their driver’s license. Before the DWI statute was revised, all DWI offenders faced a lengthy suspension of their license, including up to 10 years for a third DWI offense. Now, since the interlock device must be installed on the defendant’s primary vehicle immediately after sentence is handed down, they get to keep their license and continue driving.
The idea behind the interlock device is that someone with a history of drunk driving can’t necessarily be trusted to operate a motor vehicle without some kind of limitation or safeguard in place. In theory, having an interlock device installed on the car should ensure that a drunk motorist is not able to start the engine and endanger others on the road by driving while intoxicated. In practice, however, there can be an issue when someone tampers with the device so that it no longer functions properly, or when someone other than the driver blows into the device in order to start the car.
Tampering with or Failing to Install Ignition Interlock Charges in NJ
If you are ordered to install an interlock device on your car, you must do so before you can operate your vehicle. Along those same lines, if your license is suspended for a DWI, you will need to provide proof that you have installed the device on your vehicle before your driving privileges are restored by the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC). You will be responsible for paying the costs of installation, which can be around $100, as well as a monthly rental fee of around $100 for as long as the device is required. The penalties for failure to install an interlock device are severe, including a minimum of one year during which your license will be suspended. This applies on top of any existing license suspension that came with your original DWI sentence.
After the device has been installed, you will not be allowed to tamper with or circumvent the device under any circumstances. Since the interlock device is electronic, it is possible for someone with an understanding of the technology to alter it so that it no longer functions properly. If you interfere with the device, you could face new charges and additional penalties, as set forth by N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.19. The interlock device penalty typically stems from a DWI or Refusal offense, which is technically considered a traffic violation. But it is important to understand that tampering or messing with the interlock is classified as a disorderly persons offense, not a traffic offense. This means that you could face significant jail time, as well as a criminal record if you are convicted on the charges.
What is the Punishment for Tampering with an Interlock Device in New Jersey?
The penalties for tampering with the device after it is installed include the following:
- Jail Time: A conviction for tampering with an interlock device carries a possible jail term of up to six (6) months.
- Fine: The court may impose a monetary fine of up to $1,000.
- Criminal Record: Since tampering with an interlock device is a disorderly persons offense, a conviction or guilty plea will leave you with a criminal record.
Can You be Charged for Helping Someone Circumvent the Ignition Interlock?
N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.19 broadly applies to anyone who tampers with or circumvents the operation of the interlock device. Additionally, it is also a disorderly persons offense to assist someone who has been ordered to install the device on their car. For example, the statute specifies that if someone other than the designated motorist attempts to blow into the device so that the car will start, they too can be charged with a disorderly persons offense. The same is true for anyone who lends a vehicle to someone who has been ordered to install the interlock device. The bottom line is that if you help your friend by blowing into the interlock device on their car, or by loaning them your car, you could face serious jail time.
Accused of Interfering with an Interlock Device in Middlesex County? Contact a Dedicated Lawyer Today
If you face charges for the offense of tampering with an interlock device, failing to install the ignition interlock in your vehicle, or driving without the device when required, the need to defend your case with help from an experienced attorney should be clear. The consequences of a conviction could have a profound impact on your life, affecting your driving privileges going forward, depriving you of your freedom if you are sentenced to jail time, and leaving you with a criminal record that you may have to explain to friends, family members, co-workers, and potential employers for many years to come.
Our dedicated team of criminal and DWI lawyers will go to bat for you when protecting your interests against interlock charges in Edison, Woodbridge, New Brunswick, Old Bridge, Piscataway, South Brunswick, Perth Amboy, East Brunswick, and other nearby towns in Middlesex County. Call us 24/7 at (732) 659-9600 to speak with an attorney in a free consultation.