Ignition Interlock Devices in Virginia: A Quick Guide

In order to qualify for restricted driving privileges in Virginia, you must install an ignition interlock device on your vehicles.

If you are convicted of DUI in Virginia you will lose your driving privileges for 12 months. However, you may be able to regain these privileges in a limited fashion by applying for a restricted driving license.

One requirement for driving on a restricted driving license is installing an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.

An ignition interlock device is essentially a breathalyzer test that connects to your vehicle’s ignition. In order to start your car, you need to blow less than a 0.02% on this device.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of using an ignition interlock device in Virginia, as well as how you might end up with one.

We’ll also talk about a few specific, important points you should know about Virginia’s ignition interlock device laws.

What is an Ignition Interlock Device?

man in car blowing into breathalyzer
An example of a man using an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) to start his car.

An ignition interlock device is basically a breath alcohol analysis device (breathalyzer) that connects to your vehicle’s ignition.

In Virginia, an ignition interlock device must do all of the following:

  • Connect a vehicle’s ignition system to a breath analyzer which measures a driver’s blood alcohol content.
  • Prevent a motor vehicle from starting if the driver’s BAC exceeds 0.02%.
  • Have the capability to perform a “rolling retest,” where the driver re-takes the breathalyzer test while already in motion.
  • Electronically log the BAC results of every test, both during attempted ignition and during rolling retests.

Finally, note that failing this test will trigger “the sounding of the horn and [the] flashing of lights” until you turn your car off.

It will also notify your ASAP case manager that you failed the test, as explained in further detail below.

How much does an ignition interlock device cost?

The court will not provide you with an ignition interlock device.

Instead, you’ll have to either rent or purchase an ignition interlock device from one of several pre-approved manufacturers.

The court will provide you with a list of approved devices if they order you to install one.

The price for an ignition interlock device itself can vary significantly based on the manufacturer. Typically, the device and initial installation will cost you somewhere between $70 to $150.

However, in some jurisdictions the installation and removal of the device are free.

You’ll also have to pay a fee of around $20 to the clerk of the court to cover administrative costs related to the ignition interlock system.

On top of this, you will also have to pay a monthly fee for the monitoring of the device.

Generally, this cost is less than $80 per month, but changes based on the jurisdiction.

When Do I Need to Install an Ignition Interlock Device?

sign for student drop off and pick up area against brick school building

The answer to this question generally boils down into three key points:

  • As noted above, DUI convictions in Virginia often result in the suspension of your driving privileges for at least 12 months.
  • During this suspension, you may apply for restricted driving privileges in order to drive to work, school, or other places necessary for daily life (such as a grocery store).
  • If you successfully apply for a restricted driver’s license you must install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. Generally, you’ll have to use the IID for at least 6 months before the court will approve you to drive without it.

In 2012, Virginia changed its laws so that a conviction for any drunk driving offense will result in the installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.

This is true even a first offense.

Basically, this means that even first offenders must install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle they operate, should they apply for a restricted driver’s license.

Second and subsequent offenses can result in harsher requirements, such as installing an IID on every vehicle you own, have registered, or drive (such as a work vehicle).

Do I Need to Install a Camera for My Ignition Interlock Device?

Yes. The judge overseeing your DUI case will always request that you install an ignition interlock device with a camera.

This is due to a relatively recent change in Virginia’s DUI laws.

This tends to be slightly more expensive than a standard IID. Additionally, not all IID manufacturers provide devices with cameras.

The purpose of this camera is to make sure that a passenger isn’t blowing into your IID for you.

As noted in the Virginia Code:

“No person shall start, or attempt to start, a motor vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock system for the purpose of providing an operable motor vehicle to a person who is prohibited under this section from operating a motor vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock system.”

Virginia Code § 18.2-270.1(F)

Having a camera not only protects you from accidental IID failures (such as if someone else tries to start your car), but also proves to the court that you are following all the rules of your IID.

What Happens if I Fail an IID Test?

assorted spicy food - indian curry and rice dishes shot from overhead.

In order to start your vehicle, and at random points while driving, the device will administer a breathalyzer test to you.

If you blow above a 0.02% ABV (the lowest detectable amount) you will not be able to start your car and an alarm will sound until you turn your car off.

In addition, your VASAP program will be alerted to the fact that you failed the test.

It’s up to your VASAP contact whether or not to alert the court when this occurs.

In general, it is in your best interests to be proactive and contact your VASAP representative as soon as the violation occurs.

If you have a reasonable explanation, they may choose not to alert the court.

For example, many products, foods, and beverages can actually result in a false positive.

Most forms of mouthwash, cigarettes, certain aerosol sprays, and many other common products can all throw off the device’s readings.

Even certain spicy foods sometimes lead to a false positive if you try to start your car too soon after eating.

For these reasons, it’s always a good idea to avoid eating or drinking anything 15 minutes before taking the test.

Common Ignition Interlock Violations and Penalties

Driving on a restricted license is a privilege offered by the court to make your life easier.

Abusing this privilege is generally regarded as a very bad idea.

For this reason, there are several laws and penalties associated with misusing or abusing the ignition interlock device program.

As a few of the most common:

  • Virginia Code § 18.2-270.1(D) — Failing to install an ignition interlock device within 30 days of receiving your restricted driver’s license could result in the loss of your restricted driving privileges.
  • Virginia Code § 18.2-270.1(E) — Having another person start your vehicle for you, tampering with the IID in any way, or furnishing a vehicle to a person who would otherwise have to use an IID are all Class 1 misdemeanors. These crimes are punishable by a 12 month license suspension as well as both fines and jail time.
  • Virginia Code § 18.2-272(B) — Virginia courts treat driving with a BAC of higher than 0.02% with a restricted driving license as if you are driving on a revoked license. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by an additional 12 months of license suspension as well as both fines and jail time.
  • Virginia Code § 18.2-272(C) — Operating a vehicle without a certified ignition interlock system is also a Class 1 misdemeanor, and carries the same penalties as driving on a revoked license.


close-up of a man sitting inside car taking alcohol test

It’s important to remember that an ignition interlock device isn’t just a mechanism to prevent you from driving drunk.

It’s also a way of finding out whether you are complying with your VASAP program, which typically requires that you completely abstain from alcohol.

For this reason, failing an ignition interlock device test can have serious consequences, including the loss of your restricted driving privileges.

If you have questions or difficulties with your ignition interlock device, don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer.

An experienced Virginia DUI lawyer can answer any legal questions you have, as well as representing you in the case of an IID failure.

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