Muni-mail – Ignition Interlock Devices for Dummies – NJSA 39:4-50.17

[04/05/10 – 12:56 pm] On January 14th, an amendment to the state’s drunk driving laws went into effect that changes the requirements for the use of the so-called ignition interlock devices by people who have been convicted of drunk driving and refusal to submit to a breath test. The following will help explain how the new law works.

1. With one exception, following a conviction for drunk driving, the municipal court judge must order that the defendant both install an interlock device on the vehicle he principally operates and refrain from operating any vehicle that is not so equipped. This obligation begins immediately upon the pronouncement of sentence and continues for a determinate period after the defendant gets his driving privileges restored by the MVC. Suspension of registration privileges as an alternative is not longer available under the new statute.

2. The sole exception to this procedure occurs in the case of a first offender who has a BAC of less than .15%. This would include cases where there is no BAC evidence available due to exclusion, refusal and the like. In those instances, the judge has an option as to whether or not to order the interlock device. If the judge so orders, the obligation to use it does not begin until the suspension period is over.

3. For a first offense, the term of the interlock ranges from 6 moths to one year.

4. For second and subsequent offenders, the term of the interlock ranges from 1 year to three years.

5. All refusal convictions require installation of the interlock upon the pronouncement of sentence with a term that tracks the first, second and subsequent offender terms for DWI convictions.

6. School Zone – The school zone offense set forth in NJSA 39:4-50(g) has no interlock provision. However, since the DWI penalties under NJSA 39:4-50(a) would normally survive the merger into a greater-included offense, it is likely that the interlock requirements apply to school zone offenses as a matter of law.

7. What is an interlock device? – The interlock is a computer-type device that is installed on the vehicle by a licensed N.J. technician. A person who wishes to start a vehicle equipped with the device must blow a breath sample into it. If the device detects a BAC level of .05% or greater, it will not permit the vehicle to start for 1 hour. The device also requires periodic samples while the vehicle is being driven. If the device detects a BAC of .05% or greater, it will emit a loud noise and sound the vehicle’s horn non-stop in an effort to persuade the driver to pull over. Once the vehicle is turned off, it will not restart for an hour. The data on the device must be downloaded every 60-days by the technician for filing with the MVC. At that time, the driver can normally pay the maintenance fee. Special discounts are required for poor people.

8. The technical sentencing provisions are set forth under N.J.S.A. 39:4-17(a) et. seq

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