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Ordered to use an ignition interlock system? Here's how it works

If you find yourself under arrest for driving while intoxicated in Wisconsin, you can expect to face serious penalties if a court convicts you. These may include hundreds in fines and fees, mandatory counseling, and months of license suspension for your first offense.

If your blood alcohol concentration is .15 or higher or this is not your first OWI, you will have the additional penalty of installing an ignition interlock system in your vehicle once you get your license reinstated. You may find it helpful to understand how an ignition interlock system, also called a car breathalyzer, will work in your vehicle.

What can I expect?

The cost of installing and maintaining the IIS falls completely on you. Depending on the circumstances of your OWI arrest, the court may order you to install an IIS in every vehicle you own, which can run into hundreds of dollars. You will also pay a monthly fee and the cost of periodic recalibration. You may have this expense for a year or more, depending on your sentence.

In addition to the cost of the equipment, you will also face the inconvenience and embarrassment of using the ignition interlock each time you drive. The system is designed to prevent your vehicle from starting if it detects alcohol on your breath. Generally, the process follows these steps:

  • When you get into the vehicle, you blow into a device similar to the breath device police use during OWI traffic stops.
  • If there is alcohol on your breath, the vehicle will not start, and the system will log your failed test.
  • If the device registers no alcohol in your system, you may start the vehicle and drive.
  • Once you are driving, the ignition interlock device will alert you to submit rolling tests at periodic intervals while you drive.
  • If the device detects alcohol on your breath during these rolling tests, the system will log your positive result and report it to authorities.
  • Some IISs have the capability to make your car alarm or horn sound and its lights flash until you pull over and stop the vehicle.

After a month or two of use, the device will alert you that it needs to receive servicing. Failing to do so may result in a false positive.

While there are many benefits to the ignition interlock system, chiefly that of keeping drunk drivers off the road, you will want to discuss your options with a skilled attorney who may be able to help you reach a more positive resolution to your OWI problem.

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