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Do you understand Virginia's ignition interlock program for DUIs?

Most people who live in Virginia already know that the state has a reputation for dealing harshly with those accused of driving under the influence (DUI). There are fines and mandatory minimum jail sentences for those convicted or who plead guilty to drunk driving offenses.

However, fewer people really understand the state's ignition interlock system program and how it can impact those convicted of driving while impaired. This program can help you remain independent, but it can also be quite expensive.

What is an ignition interlock system?

If you are not familiar with an ignition interlock system, it's a device that you must lease from a private contractor. It is then installed into the vehicles of those convicted of alcohol-related driving offenses. The system requires that drivers submit an alcohol-free breath sample to be able to start their vehicles. The device also randomly requires testing as long as the driver operates the vehicle.

The idea is to prevent people who have a predilection toward impaired driving from operating their vehicles after drinking alcohol. An ignition interlock system allows those who need to drive to work to keep their drivers' licenses. Retaining the legal right to drive is an economic benefit. But the ignition interlock systems also reduce the potential for drivers to cause harm to or endanger anyone else on the road.

You have to pay for your own ignition interlock system

The state does not provide you with a free ignition interlock device. Neither do they pay a professional to install it in your vehicle. You are responsible for those expenses. In fact, those convicted of impaired driving offenses have to shell out quite a bit to lease, install and maintain the equipment in their vehicles.

While these devices used to only be required for those with exceptionally high blood alcohol levels or repeat offenses, now anyone convicted of a DUI offense has to install the devices at their own expense in order to retain their driving privileges.

Once installed, the device remains in the vehicle for at least six months. The installation fee usually costs at least $65. The person with the device installed must get it tested and calibrated at least monthly, which typically costs as much as $80 each month. That could cost more than $600 for six months of maintaining the device in your vehicle.

You face penalties for bypassing or tampering with the system

If you get caught driving another vehicle without an ignition interlock system, you could face serious penalties, including the loss of your restricted license. Similarly, tampering with, deactivating or otherwise taking steps to bypass the ignition interlock system could cause future legal issues for you, including problems reinstating your license.

For those facing DUI charges, it's important to understand the potential consequences, from jail time to the expenses related to retaining limited driving privileges. Failing to understand the seriousness of the offense could leave you in a difficult position, both financially and socially.

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