Ignition interlock devices in Minnesota

Minnesota drivers who have been arrested for drunk driving should understand what ignition interlock devices are, when they must be used, how they work, and how safe they really are.

Over the past several decades, the penalties for drinking and driving have evolved. Drivers who are arrested and convicted of DUI offenses in Minnesota can face a tough road. Among the penalties that drivers may face is the loss of driving privileges. Installing special units in vehicles may allow people the right to drive again but how do these things work?

What is an ignition interlock device?

An IID is a unit that essentially keeps a vehicle ignition locked until a driver passes a breath test. As explained by Intoxalock, an IID manufacturer, a driver must blow into a handheld unit following a specific pattern. The unit receives the information from the sample and will allow the ignition to be started if the sample shows that the driver is not under the influence of alcohol.

Who must use IIDs?

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services notes that even someone convicted of a first-ever DUI offense may be ordered to install and use an IID. A driver's license can be lost for up to 12 months even for a first conviction.

Are IIDs accurate?

Drivers should know that it is not alcohol alone that can cause an IID to maintain a hold on an ignition. Mouthwash, toothpaste and even many foods can result in false readings by IID devices. Great care must be taken by a driver to avoid these items well in advance of needing to start a car.

When are breath samples required?

Every time a vehicle must be started a test must be taken. This includes after fueling at a gas station or when having a vehicle serviced. Mechanics or others who must operate a vehicle with an IID will be required to take the breath test in order to start the car.

Samples can also be required while a person is actually driving. This is called a rolling retest. The unit will signal that a rolling test must be taken and the driver will have a few minutes within which to provide the sample. If the sample is not provided in time, the vehicle's horn can beep and lights flash until the vehicle is stopped.

In some cases, a driver may have the opportunity to pull over to take a rolling retest but it is very likely that this may not be possible. In these cases, a driver will have to manually take the test while driving at the same time.

Can using an IID while driving be distracting?

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety, anything that takes a person's mind, eyes or hands away from driving can be a distraction. It is for this reason that texting while operating a vehicle is illegal in Minnesota. It is interesting given this fact that part of the penalty for doing one thing said to be dangerous is to do something else also said to be dangerous.

In fact, NBC Chicago reports that a driver was ticketed for allegedly causing an accident while distracted by taking a rolling retest with an IID. The officer chided the man for not pulling over to take the test but it is not known whether or not the driver actually had the time to do so.

What should arrested drivers do?

Contacting an attorney after a drunk driving arrest is important. The consequences can be harsh and working with an experienced advisor can help provide people with the right information along the way.