What Happens if You Tamper With or Fail to Install an Ignition Interlock Device in New Jersey

ignition interlock

If you got arrested and were subsequently convicted of DWI in New Jersey or refusal to take a breathalyzer test, you are familiar with the ignition interlock device. But did you know that there is an additional criminal charge under NJ law that punishes people for failure to install an ignition interlock device in a motor vehicle or tampering with the device on their car?

Ignition Interlock Device Requirements for Driving While Intoxicated

Since the penalty for a first-time DUI with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of between 0.08% and less than 0.10% includes driving with an interlock in your primary vehicle, your DWI introduced you to this drunk driving prevention device, mandated by the updated NJ DWI law under NJSA 39:4-50. The first-time penalties include a possible $400.00 fine, 30 days in jail, 12 hours at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center, a three-year car insurance surcharge, and a license suspension until the driver installs an ignition interlock device. You will drive with it for three months unless your BAC was higher than 0.10% or it is your second or third offense. In that case, plan to spend seven months to four years with the device after you reinstate your license. For a breathalyzer refusal, you will drive with it for nine months to four years, depending on your history of refusals.

How the Ignition Interlock Device Works

The ignition interlock device prevents drivers with DWI convictions from operating a vehicle with alcohol on their breath. It works like a breathalyzer, detecting breath alcohol content. The driver cannot start the car until breathing into the breathalyzer attached to the steering column and is about the size of an electric razor at its smallest and a cell phone at its largest. If the driver’s BAC is 0.05% or higher, the car does not start. Additionally, the device is expensive and inconvenient to install and maintain. A driver must get it calibrated periodically and blow into it each time they start the car, even while driving.

The machine installation cost is between $100.00 and $150.00, with a $75.00 to $80.00 monthly rental and calibration fee. If the device senses a BAC over the limit, the device transmits a report to the Motor Vehicle Department. The department then reports the notification to the court. In addition, your car’s horn sounds and its lights flash while you are driving to notify the police that a drunk driver is on the road. Thus, if driving with the device in your car is not embarrassing enough, setting the device off by operating a vehicle with alcohol in your system announces to the world around you that you are driving drunk, even if you are not technically drunk.

Charges for Failure to Install, Tampering With, or Circumventing an Interlock Device

While you might suffer embarrassment with the device, you suffer far more without it. If you fail to install the device or otherwise get around the device by driving another car, you face severe penalties. Failing to install the device is minimally a one-year license suspension over and above any other suspension already in place by the judge. Since you must drive a vehicle that you declared your principal vehicle and have a license that indicates you must drive with a device, the police know when you violate the court’s sentence. The court notifies the Motor Vehicle Commission about your conviction and re-issues your license with the device notation. So, your chances of getting caught are high, even if you have someone else blow into the machine.

Additionally, should you rig the device so the car starts without blowing into it, you violate NJSA 39:4-50.19, which describes tampering and the various other actions that violate this statute. If convicted of tampering with the interlock installed in your vehicle, or otherwise circumventing the mandatory device, you face jail time and paying high fines. Specifically, ignition interlock related criminal charges can get you jailed for six months or a potential five-year probation for a disorderly persons offense. You could also pay a fine as high as $1,000.00. According to the statute, only the driver ordered to maintain the device may blow into the machine, and no one may tamper with it to bypass driving with the device. In addition, anyone who lends, leases, or rents a car to someone ordered to drive with an interlock device violates the law. Thus, those who aid another to bypass the interlock sentence risk a criminal record themselves if they get caught.

The Purpose of Installing an Ignition Interlock Device After DWI Conviction

Obviously, the New Jersey legislature is serious about keeping drunk drivers off the road. The legislature’s public safety concerns originally prompted a mandatory license suspension for all individuals convicted of a DWI or DUI, which applied for years. Before the interlock solution, those convicted of driving while intoxicated for the first time, second time, third time, and thereafter, could not drive at all during the suspension period. However, convicted drivers’ impossibility to get to work or school prompted too many offenders to drive on suspended licenses. And the penalties for driving on a DWI suspended license are severe. Getting caught driving with a suspended license for a DUI conviction results in jail time. Worse yet, the DUI penalties did not stop convicted drivers from drunk driving. The ignition interlock device answered the problem of how to protect the public from drunk drivers without creating impossible circumstances for first offenders, further convictions, and no fewer drunk drivers. In fact, the ignition interlock reduces drunk driving incidences and still allows convicted drivers to maintain their daily obligations.

Thus, the interlock device is relatively better for those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol for the first time, rather than an automatic license suspension. It also came with a reduction in the periods of license suspension applicable to second, third, and subsequent DWI offenses.

Contact a Skilled Lawyer if You Have Been Charged With an Ignition Interlock Offense in Hudson County NJ

Of course, the best possible outcome of all is not getting convicted for a DWI in the first place. Convictions stay on your driving record with the DMV for a lifetime and can hurt you in ways you may not suspect. You improve your chances of avoiding DUI conviction with stellar legal assistance. The highly experienced drunk driving lawyers at William Proetta Criminal Law regularly defend those accused of driving intoxicated throughout Hudson County and New Jersey. Our attorneys can scrutinize the prosecutor’s case against you and find any irregularities in the arrest, field sobriety testing, or Alcotest and related breathalyzing administration.

We can also defend you on tampering and failure to install an interlock charges. To convict you of circumventing the device, the municipal court prosecutor must prove you intentionally disabled or otherwise altered the interlock device and not someone else. That may not be easy. In addition, there are cases in which we can raise questions about the device’s faulty operation or installation to challenge a prosecutor’s tampering accusation. Thus, if you need local experience and successfully proven lawyers to better your odds of beating a DWI or ignition interlock charges, enlist the help of our defense firm in Jersey City. You can save yourself time, money, and anxiety with the proper representation. Get a free consultation by contacting us online or calling (201) 793-8018.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.