What to Do After Receiving a Court-Ordered Ignition Interlock Device in Texas?

Have you been charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. 

Over the years, the State of Texas has made efforts to reduce the rate of such offenses by offering alternative sentences such as alcohol and drug rehab, electronic monitoring, and several other programs; Ignition Interlock Devices (IID) are a common requirement for those charged with a DWI. 

The Purpose and Function of Ignition Interlock Devices

Though drunk driving is a serious offense that could carry very stiff penalties, the criminal justice system still seeks to provide an avenue for most defendants to remain productive citizens in their respective daily lives. 

As a result, IID was created to prevent anyone with a history of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) from driving their cars unless they breathe into the apparatus and pass the test without any alcohol detected. 

The IID is simply a small device and breathalyzer installed in the defendant’s vehicle. The offender must provide a breath sample with zero alcohol detected. So even if you don’t blow over the legal limit of 0.08, you can still get in trouble with the court if the device detects any amount in your system at all.

The Impact of Interlock Devices on Public Safety in Texas

In 2021, the Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS) reported 89,457 DWI charges, a 7% increase from the following year. However, in 2020, the state convicted 23,258 individuals, compared to 8,044 individuals in 2021.     

Are Interlock Devices Compulsory in Texas?

The State of Texas, in accordance with CCP 17.441 mandates anyone with a second and subsequent DWI charge to be subjected to an IID installation as a condition of their bail or probationary conditions. In addition, CCP 42A.408 also mandates IID for all second and subsequent offenders, including first-time offenders with a previous DWI conviction and blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 or higher. 

Duration of Interlock Device Requirement for DWI Offenders

Currently, the duration and requirements for DWI offenders are subject to the court’s jurisdiction and the judge’s discretion over the case, especially for first time offenders. However, defendants with any previous convictions for DWI or first-time offenders with a BAC greater than 0.15 will be required by law to have the IID installed during the entire pendency of their case while out on bond. 

Under Texas law, the offender is required to install the IID in their vehicle within 30 days of the court order. Failure to do so could cause the court to revoke the offender’s bail or probation. 

Can I Comply with an Interlock Device Order If I Don’t Own a Car?

If an offender doesn’t have a car, the issue of an IID could be irrelevant, especially if the offender would be using public transport or driven by others to work and social events. 

However, there are circumstances where someone might not have a car but have access to the cars of friends and family members. It is imperative and mandatory for the offender to install the IID on the cars they would be driving, even if the vehicle is registered to someone else.  

Sometimes, an individual might be ordered to install the IID but later realizes they no longer have access to a car. At this point, the offender can get a waiver by filing a declaration of non-ownership within 30 days of the court order. This form is usually available at the courthouse where the individual has been sentenced. 

Who Covers the Cost?

When the State of Texas imposes an IID order on an offender, the burden of the cost is squarely the offender’s responsibility. Most IIDs cost between $70 to $150 to install in one vehicle, followed by a monthly subscription fee between $60 to $80. 

The cost stated above is no small change to some folks who are either unemployed or cannot afford the additional expense. If the court deems the defendant as indigent, then the court can impose an affordable payment schedule that will not exceed the period of the court order or may order that the County pay for the cost of the IID.  

At What Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Does the Interlock Device Fail to Unlock?

The IID requires a fresh breath sample into the device whenever an offender is ready to start their vehicle. When a detectable amount of alcohol is detected, with a BAC reading of 3% or above the threshold (.02 or .025), the car will not start. Next, the device allows a few more chances for a retry after a few minutes interval. In addition, the device prompts you for additional breath samples while driving but would not cut off the car engine. Instead, any violation would be recorded. 

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