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Story published: 08-28-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Those convicted of DUI must now equip cars with ignition interlock

By Paula Walter

Effective July 1, 2013, individuals convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in the State of Tennessee or those who are found guilty of having drugs and alcohol in their system will now be required to breathe into a device that measures blood alcohol levels before their vehicle will start. The Ignition Interlock law was approved unanimously in both Tennessee’s House of Representatives and Senate before it was sent to Governor Bill Haslam for his signature.  Tennessee joins 17 other states that now requires first time DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock system.

The new legislation drops the threshold for the legal limit of blood alcohol from .15 to .08 percent. In order to be able to drive, convicted DUI offenders will be required to have an interlock device installed and it must be maintained and in working order. No one will be able to hold a restricted driver’s permit that allows them to drive to and from work, a doctor’s appointment or a visit to their probation officer but will be required to comply with the new legislation.  Tennessee law requires the ignition interlock system be preset to detect alcohol levels at a limit of between .002 and .005. The court decides the parameters.

Depending on what service is used, the cost can run approximately $150 to install the ignition interlock and up to $100 per month for the device to be monitored.  Costs incurred include the installation, the purchase or lease of the device, along with maintenance and monitoring. The unit must be checked at least twice a year and documentation that shows proof of installation and maintenance must be presented to the court.   These fees are approximately $800 annually.  The unit must be purchased from a provider authorized by the state.   A list of authorized providers can be found on Tennessee’s Department of Safety website.

The court will also determine if those charged with a DUI can afford the costs associated with an ignition interlock device.  A hardship waiver may be granted if it can be proved the device will be a financial hardship. Everyone convicted of a DUI is charged $40.  These monies are then allocated to a fund that will assist those who are found to be impoverished and cannot financially bear the cost of the equipment.

Should a person be charged with a DUI and they continue to drive without the ignition interlock system, they can be charged with driving on a revoked, canceled or suspended license.  This Class B misdemeanor can result in up to fines of $1,000 depending on the reasons the license was initially revoked, along with jail time from two days to six months, as well as the suspension of their driver’s license for another year.   If they are caught again, the charges are now a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a fine up to $3,000 and anywhere from 45 days to a year in jail.  If you are required to use an ignition interlock device and you have another person blow into the device for you or the system is turned off, this is also considered a Class B misdemeanor and the offender will spent a minimum of 48 hours up to 11 months 29 days in jail.