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How Many DUIs Until I Have to Install a Breathalyzer in My Vehicle?


If you’re charged with driving under the influence – DUI – in or near Orange County, you must be advised and represented by an Orange County DUI attorney, and you must contact that attorney as quickly as possible after a DUI arrest.

How many DUI convictions do you have to have in California before the court orders you to install a breathalyzer – an ignition interlock device or “IID” – in your vehicle? How long will that device have to remain in your vehicle? Is there any way to avoid a conviction for DUI?

If you’ll keep reading this brief discussion of DUI, IIDs, and your rights in California, these questions will be answered, but if you have a DUI charge pending or you’re charged with DUI in the future, you’ll also need the advice and services that an Orange County DUI attorney offers.

What is California’s IID Law?

Since 2019, as one of the penalties for a DUI conviction in California, most convicted offenders must have an IID installed at their own expense in their personal vehicles. The law requires most convicted, first-time DUI offenders to use an IID for six months.

For repeat offenders:

  1. A second DUI conviction requires the offender to use an IID for one year.
  2. A third DUI conviction requires the offender to use an IID for two years.
  3. Fourth and subsequent DUI convictions require an offender to use an IID for three years.

California law also permits motorists whose licenses have been administratively suspended by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) after a DUI arrest to obtain an IID-restricted driving privilege.

The law applies exclusively to DUI cases that involve alcohol only or a combination of alcohol and drugs – and not to cases that involve drugs only.

How Did Court-Ordered IID Installation Become California Law?

California began an IID pilot program for convicted DUI offenders in 2010. Four counties – Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare – were chosen to participate in the pilot program. The program’s goal was to ascertain if IIDs are useful in the battle against DUI.

California lawmakers voted in 2017 to expand the pilot program statewide beginning in 2019 and continuing through 2026. If the statewide use of ignition interlock devices for first-time DUI offenders is deemed to be effective, lawmakers will probably extend the IID law beyond 2026.

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that IIDs are effective and accurate more than ninety percent of the time, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a 67 percent decline in repeat DUI offenses by drivers who are ordered to have IIDs installed.

What Happens When a Court Orders an IID Installation?

When a court in California orders a motorist to install an IID, the IID must be installed only by an installer who is authorized by the state, and proof of that installation must be shown to the court. The DMV also requires convicted DUI offenders to pay an IID administrative service fee.

The DMV will update the driver’s record so that a police officer will know about the motorist’s IID requirement if the officer stops that motorist. Failing to have an IID installed after a court order can mean a loss of driving privileges until proof of the installation is shown to the court.

The cost of IID installation is generally from $75 to $150. You also must pay for IID calibration and maintenance at least every sixty days. Calibration and maintenance typically costs from $60 to $100 or more.

Some ignition interlock device providers claim they will install an ignition interlock device at no cost, but those providers will charge you substantially more for calibration and maintenance.

Can an Impaired Driver Trick an Ignition Interlock Device?

Breath that checks positive for alcohol will be recorded by an ignition interlock device. Any effort to tamper with or bypass the device – such as the use of air in a balloon or someone else’s breath – will also be recorded.

If an ignition interlock device records any effort to tamper with, bypass, or remove the IID, a suspension of the driver’s license is immediate and automatic, and other penalties may be ordered by the court.

What Other Penalties May Be Imposed for DUI Convictions?

For adult motorists with standard licenses in California, the penalties for a first-offense misdemeanor DUI conviction may also include:

  1. a fine of $390 to $1,000
  2. a jail sentence of up to six months
  3. a probation term of three to five years
  4. participation in a treatment program or drug or alcohol education classes
  5. a license suspension separate from any administrative suspension ordered by the DMV

How Can You Avoid a DUI Conviction – and an IID Installation?

California authorities offer these suggestions to help drivers avoid accidents, arrests, and the other likely consequences of driving under the influence:

  1. If you plan to drink with friends, plan transportation in advance.
  2. If you designate a driver, it has to be a person you completely trust.
  3. If you are stranded or stuck, call a taxicab, a relative, a friend, or a rideshare service.

You could also consider sleeping on a friend’s sofa or renting a room for the night – whatever it takes to avoid driving under the influence. You’ll spend a few dollars, but you will spend a lot less than the cost of a ride to the jail, the emergency room, or the morgue.

What Else Should You Know About California DUI Cases?

If you’re charged with DUI in Southern California, you must speak immediately with an Orange County DUI attorney. If the charge is a first-offense with no aggravating circumstances, you may be allowed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of wet reckless.

However, if you believe that you are not guilty of DUI, and if your Orange County DUI lawyer cannot have the DUI charge dropped or dismissed, you should plead not guilty, and you should insist on your right to a jury trial, where your attorney will fight aggressively for your acquittal.

Discuss with your attorney the pros and cons of any plea deal offered by a prosecutor. Your attorney will recommend accepting or rejecting the offer. While you should seriously consider your attorney’s advice, the choice to take or reject a plea bargain is yours alone.

It is not difficult to be charged with driving under the influence in California. In every year of the last decade, more than 100,000 drivers were charged with DUI in this state. If that happens to you, reach out to a DUI lawyer for the legal help you need – as quickly as possible.

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