A DUI charge can have unforeseen ramifications. It's common knowledge that any Maryland DUI offense carries the possibility of time in jail as a criminal sanction. What is perhaps less commonly understood are the collateral consequences that will follow. The administrative suspension of one's drivers license for 6 months can be perhaps even more consequential. The inability to get to work, to school, or to needed medical appointments for you, or family members, can have effects that are more far reaching than even a stint in the local jail. Maryland's Ignition Interlock Program allows those arrested for DUI a chance to keep their privilege to drive.
What is Ignition Interlock?
It’s a device that keeps you from driving your vehicle, unless certain conditions are met. Specifically: “[a]n ignition interlock device means a device that connects a motor vehicle’s ignition system to a breath analyzer that measures a driver’s alcohol concentration and prevents a motor vehicle ignition from starting the motor vehicle if a driver’s alcohol concentration exceeds the calibrated setting on the device.”
How Does A Maryland Interlock Device Work?
The general sense is that the interlock device keeps someone who is drunk on the one hand, or someone who has been drinking at all, in any amount, from driving the car. Certainly, if you are legally “drunk" [i.e. a BAC of more than .08] you won’t be able to drive. The device will not allow you to. The device is not designed, however, or least as it is configured in Maryland, to prohibit anyone who has consumed any alcohol from driving. “The driver must blow into a mouthpiece connected to the device, allowing the device to measure the driver’s breath alcohol content (BAC). If the device registers a BAC greater than .025, it will not allow the vehicle to start.”
Who can Participate In the Maryland Interlock Program?
You can opt in to the Interlock program, or you may be ordered to participate. In either event, you must meet certain eligibility requirements, first and foremost among them is that your license is not suspended, revoked, canceled, or refused.
When Must I Participate in The Interlock Program?
Maryland law requires that for certain convictions, you must participate in the Interlock Program in order to continue driving. Those convictions are:
“Driving under the influence (DUI);
Driving while impaired (DWI) while transporting a minor under the age of 16;
Driving while intoxicated with an initial breathalyzer test refusal; and
Homicide or life-threatening injury by motor vehicle while DUI or DWI.”
Separately, a court has the authority as part of a DUI sentence, or as a term of probation, to require a person to participate in the ignition interlock program for up to three years.
When Can I Voluntarily Participate in the Interlock Program?
Anyone charged DUI faces two sets of potential sanctions: administrative and criminal. If you have an illegal BAC, or if you refuse to take a test, you will be charged with a crime, and the MVA will suspend your license for a period of time that will depend on your alcohol involved driving history. If otherwise eligible, you may opt to participate in the Interlock Program instead of serving out the period of suspension, or contesting that administrative suspension. When the arresting officer takes your license after a DUI arrest, you will be given a form DR-015A /Advice of Rights Form. The Instructions for participating in the Interlock Program are found on that form. You have 30 days to complete the process.
What Do I Have To Do to Voluntarily Participate In The Interlock Program?
You have 30 days from the date of your arrest to act, and to notify the MVA in writing of your desire to participate. You must have the device installed. The MVA directs that you: "contact one of the MVA’s authorized Ignition Interlock Service Providers and schedule an appointment to have the ignition interlock device installed on the vehicle that you will be driving. When the device is installed, the provider will show you how to use it, advise you about the monthly maintenance and reporting requirements, and provide you with written proof that the device was installed.” You must then certify that your old license is not in your possession, and request a ‘restricted' license from the MVA. Additionally, “[i]f you possess a commercial driver’s license, in order to participate in the Program, you will be required to obtain a non-commercial driver’s license.”
Under certain circumstances, the MVA may allow a participant in the ignition interlock program to drive a work vehicle that is not equipped with a device. Md. Transportation Code 27-107.
If I Voluntarily Participate in the Program, How Long Do I Have To Participate?
“180 days, if you submitted to a test indicating an alcohol concentration of at least 0.08 but less than 0.15,
1 year if you submitted to a test indicating an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or higher, or
1 year if you refused to submit to the test.”
If you refused a test, or if you had a BAC of .15 or higher, and you want to keep driving, you have to participate in the program. Anyone who has had their license suspended administratively has the option to challenge that suspension. As part of the process, they may request a “restricted” or “modified” license that allows them to drive for specific purposes [e.g. employment]. If you refuse a test, or take a test with a result of 0.15 or more you cannot apply for such a license.
What is Considered A Violation of the Interlock Program’s Requirements?
“Failure to have the ignition interlock device installed and obtain a Maryland driver’s license restricted to the operation only of vehicles equipped with an ignition interlock device;
Failure to appear for the required monthly monitoring visit every thirty (30) days;
Operating a motor vehicle not equipped with a functioning interlock device approved for use in the Program;
Failure to abide by the terms and conditions of the Service Agreement with the Interlock Service Provider, including payment of all costs and fees associated with the Program;
Tampering with, bypassing, or otherwise removing or rendering inoperable the interlock device, or allowing someone else to do the same;
Attempting to start or operate the vehicle with BAC greater than .025;
Failure to submit to retests after starting the car;
Any license suspension or revocation imposed while participating in the Program.”
It is illegal to tamper with the unit, to start a vehicle for someone subject to ignition interlock, or, to ask another to circumvent the interlock device with their breath.
What Happens If I Violate the Interlock Program Requirements?
Maryland’s Interlock Program Employs a four-strikes-and-and-your-are out- methodology. For the first 3 violations, one month is added on to the required period of participation. Upon the 4th violation, you will be removed from the Program, and the full suspension will be imposed.
Who Pays for The Ignition Interlock Device and Service?
You do. There are installation charges for the device, and monthly fees for the service, and the MVA separately charges you for the various license and license updates you must obtain.
-This Article was updated by Eric Kirk on 8/21/20.