What to Know About DWI License Restoration and the Ignition Interlock Device

In general, individuals convicted of driving while impaired in North Carolina may seek to restore their driving privileges, subject to specific conditions set by a court of law. The installation of an ignition interlock device is a typical condition imposed on drivers convicted of DWI.

A conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) entails severe penalties and long-term consequences. Suspension of a driver’s license is one of the consequences.

When your driver’s license is suspended, you must install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle before it may be reinstated.

What Is an Ignition Interlock Device and Who is Required to Use One?

Anyone convicted of driving while impaired under N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-138.1 with an alcohol concentration of.15 or higher may seek to restore restricted driving privileges. On top to any other restriction or condition imposed, a court shall require the person to “operate only a vehicle equipped with a functioning ignition interlock system.” N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-17.8(a) (1).

An ignition interlock system is a device that, like a breathalyzer, is put on the dashboard of a motor vehicle and can measure the number of grams of alcohol per 210 liters of a person’s breath. Persons convicted of DWI who have an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or higher at the time of their offense will not start their car if the ignition interlock device detects an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or higher.

Persons convicted of two impaired-driving offenses within a seven-year period must also have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles, according to N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-17.8(a)(2). Persons convicted of two impaired-driving charges who have their driving privileges restored, however, are not permitted to drive with an alcohol content more than 0.00.

In general, repeat DWI offenders and drivers whose offenses were deemed “aggravated” due to connected wrecks, personal injuries, or other aggravating elements are not permitted to drive without the use of an ignition interlock device. Individuals convicted of serious offenses are not permitted to drive with an alcohol concentration of more than 0.00.

Ignition Interlock Device: When Is it Required After a DWI Arrest?

Following the completion of the required suspension time, the DMV mandates drivers to install an ignition interlock. After a DWI conviction, a driver may be able to have their license reinstated by placing an ignition interlock device if:

If their blood alcohol content (BAC) is exceeded.15 percent, or if they were convicted of another drunk driving offense within seven years of the incident for which their driver’s license was suspended, or if they received an aggravated level one DWI sentence.

What Happens if I Purchase a New Vehicle or Remove the Ignition Interlock?

If a person subject to an ignition interlock condition obtains a vehicle without an installed ignition interlock system or removes an ignition interlock system from a vehicle, the DMV will cancel the person’s driver’s license under N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-17.8(c1).

Furthermore, anyone who breaches any of the court-ordered ignition interlock requirements “commits the offense of driving while license revoked under G.S. 20-28(a) and is subject to punishment and license revocation as specified in that section.”

How Can Interlock Violations Be Avoided?

Driving privileges may be lost if you violate your interlock device. However, before the DMV revokes any driving privileges due to an ignition interlock violation, you have the right to defend yourself at a violation hearing.

Keep a log of the times the ignition interlock gave a false-positive result. Note the date and time of the false positives, as well as the possible causes of the false positives (chewing gum, consuming food, using mouthwash or breath freshener, etc.).

Drivers who are forced to install an ignition interlock device must schedule maintenance appointments on a monthly basis. They will receive an interlock violation if they fail to attend a maintenance appointment. This may result in the revocation of their driver’s license.

How Long Do I Have to Use an Ignition Interlock Device After a DWI?

The duration of suspension determines how long you must drive with an ignition interlock device placed in your vehicle:

  • If your license is suspended for a year, you must drive with the IID for a year; if your license is suspended for four years, you must drive with the IID for three years or,
  • If a driver’s license is permanently suspended, an ignition interlock device will be installed for a period of seven years.

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