If you have been convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in the state of Virginia, there are a host of penalties that can be assessed by the court. You could face fines, mandatory alcohol treatment programs, license suspensions, and even jail time. If you are allowed to continue driving, the court may order you to have an ignition interlock system installed on your vehicle.

What is an ignition interlock system?

An ignition interlock system is designed to prevent you from driving your car or truck if you have been drinking. A device is installed on your steering column which adds an extra step to the process of starting your vehicle.

These devices are about as large as a deck of cards and are connected by a wire to your vehicle's ignition system. Each device has a nozzle through which you must blow air before you can start your car. If the interlock ignition system detects a certain amount of alcohol in your breath, (or any traces of alcohol in some cases) your car or truck will not start.

In addition, ignition interlock devices require you to blow into the nozzle periodically while you are driving. This is to ensure that you do not consume alcohol after you have already started your vehicle. Generally, you will receive a message on your device every 5 to 20 minutes indicating that you must check your blood alcohol level using the ignition interlock system.

If you "fail" the breath test while you are driving, the vehicle's engine will not shut off immediately. Instead, the vehicle's high-beam lights will begin flashing and its horn will sound continuously until you pull the car off the road and turn off the ignition. Some ignition interlock systems issue a warning in the form of a recorded voice, giving you an opportunity to stop your car or truck before triggering the horn and high-beams.

Violations and Penalties

In the eyes of the court, you are being allowed to maintain your driving privileges on the condition that you follow the rules which pertain to an ignition interlock system. So if you violate the terms of your agreement with the court, you can have your driver's license suspended indefinitely and be subjected to additional fines and jail time. Common rule violations include: 

  • tampering with the ignition interlock system in an attempt to disable it;
  • circumventing the system by getting someone else to blow into the ignition interlock device for you; and
  • driving a different vehicle which is not equipped with an ignition interlock system.


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Bob Battle
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100% of my practice is devoted to serious traffic defense and criminal litigation in state and federal courts