You may have heard the term “Ignition Interlock Device” or “blow box” used in connection with DUI cases in Calgary.
This is a device that can allow drivers convicted of impaired driving under Calgary’s strict DUI laws to continue driving after serving a period of suspension.
The justice system recognizes that a vehicle is essential for many people in Calgary to get around and to earn a living.
So, while everyone convicted of impaired driving in Calgary will lose their license for a certain period, the ignition interlock device (IID) is a way to mitigate the length of time that a driver is banned from driving.
IIDs are proving to be one of the most effective strategies for combatting drunk driving.
What is an Ignition Interlock Device and how does it work?
Think of an ignition interlock device as a personal breathalyzer device for your vehicle.
Provincial ignition interlock programs are arranged for offenders prepared to drive on a restricted driver’s licence that permits you to drive if an IID is installed in the vehicle.
They are mandatory for all drivers convicted of impaired driving or who refuse to provide a breath or blood sample in Calgary.
If you are ordered by the court to install an IID in your car, you will need to blow into the device and provide a breath sample each time before you drive – and randomly thereafter.
If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below a pre-set limit – generally 0.02% – you can start the car without any problems. However, if you test over the specified limit, you will be prevented from starting the engine.
Although the device tests your breath like a standard breathalyzer, it is wired to your vehicle’s engine.
An ignition interlock device looks similar to the breathalyzer that police officers use to test the breath of drivers in the field and comprises the following:
- A handheld unit
- A mouthpiece
- A relay cord
- An optional camera
As well as testing the breath, the device also records data and provides a verifiable record of driver performance in the tests and any attempts to tamper with the device.
What are the penalties for Ignition Interlock Device violations?
If you are required by the court to install an ignition interlock device, there is a set of conditions that you must abide by.
You will need to agree to initial breath tests before starting your vehicle as well as random “rolling” retests, which help safeguard the system from another person providing the initial breath sample.
If you are ordered by the device to retest during a journey, you will need to pull over to the side of the road and submit another breath test to continue.
If you fail to turn off the engine or fail the retest, your car lights will start flashing and the horn will sound until you turn your engine off.
You cannot refuse to take random retests or try to tamper with the IID in any way. If you are arrested for another DUI while an IID is fitted in your car, you will face harsh penalties.
Some of the potential consequences of violating IID regulations include:
- Having your restricted driver’s license revoked so you can no longer drive legally
- Reinstatement of your driving suspension
- Having your IID installation period extended
- Addition of a camera in your vehicle for monitoring purposes
- Permanent lockout (if you fail multiple breath tests)
- Dismissal from the IID program
Beyond these penalties, you could even face jail time and significant fines for violating the conditions of IID usage.
How long does the IID need to be installed?
If you are found guilty of impaired driving and it is your first offence, you will have to wait a minimum of three months before being eligible to enter an ignition interlock program.
The length of time that an IID needs to be installed in your vehicle will be dictated by how long the condition remains on your license, as set by a judge.
Generally speaking, the terms for DUI offenders in Calgary are:
- First-time offender: one-year minimum with an IID
- Second-time offender: three-year minimum with an IID
- Third-time offender: Typically, a one-year, three-year, or indefinite condition
Beyond a third DUI offense, you may lose your driving license permanently and not be eligible for an ignition interlock program.
For the ignition interlock device to be legally removed, you must have completed the program, covered all the fees and penalties incurred, and completed an application with the Ministry of Transportation.
Once the condition is removed, the device can be officially removed and you can drive freely again.
Can an IID be installed in a work vehicle?
Even if you do not own a vehicle, if you have been convicted of impaired driving in Calgary, the vehicle needs to have an ignition interlock device fitted for you to drive it legally.
This applies to all personal, work or family-owned vehicles.
If you do drive a vehicle without an interlock device the owner may even face criminal charges if aware that you had an interlock condition at the time of driving.
How much does an IID cost?
Participation in an ignition interlock program incurs significant fees for a person convicted of impaired driving in Calgary.
A first-time offender will need to pay around $2,000 in costs to have the device:
- Maintained monthly
If there is a history of “fails” on the device, the costs will increase. They will also increase if you have a history of offences and are required to keep the device installed for longer, as there are monthly fees of $50-150 to pay too.
Facing a DUI and in need of legal advice?
If you are facing a DUI charge, the easiest way to avoid having to install an ignition interlock device is to avoid being convicted.
For an assessment of your case and advice on the suggested next steps, get in touch with Alan Pearse.