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A St. Paul DWI Lawyer Answers: Is Ignition Interlock Mandatory in MN?

There is no question that state agencies and the legislature use a variety of tools to deter drunk driving. Law enforcement aggressively pursues impaired drivers in St. Paul, but an arrest for DWI is only the beginning. Once you are arrested, you can expect to face the immediate threat of license suspension. Without quick action and St. Paul DWI Lawyer help, you could lose your license for months—even if you have yet to be convicted of a crime.

One of the tools that the state relies on following a license suspension is the ignition interlock device. This device is used to prevent drivers from operating their vehicles without first submitting a breath sample to detect alcohol. These interlock devices are not required for every person in St. Paul that is charged with DWI, but many do face this requirement.

What is an Ignition Interlock Device?

An ignition interlock device—often referred to as an IID—is a small object that is installed into the steering column of a motor vehicle. This device is used to measure a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) before they start the engine on their vehicle.

When a person uses an ignition interlock device, they blow into the mouthpiece of the device to register a breath sample. The device includes technology that measures alcohol on that sample. If the ignition interlock device registers any alcohol whatsoever, the vehicle will not start.


Who Pays for the Interlock Device in St. Paul?

If you are granted permission to install an interlock device in your vehicle following a DWI arrest, it is your responsibility to pay for it. These devices can be costly, and the state will not help you cover this burden in any way.

The costs associated with an interlock can vary depending on how long the device is installed in your vehicle. For starters, there is an initial installation fee of $90 that every person must pay. This fee is the same no matter how long you have the device installed in your vehicle. There is also a daily charge for using the device that you must pay for as long as it is installed. This charge varies between $3 and $5 per day, depending on the vendor that supplies your device. Over time, the cost of an interlock device can add up. This is especially true for those who are required to keep a device on their vehicle for years at a time.


Minnesota Ignition Interlock Device Laws

Like most states, Minnesota has made use of mandatory ignition interlock devices following a DWI arrest. These devices are required in exchange for allowing drivers to use their car for school or work while their license is still revoked. Given the need for transportation, many people take the state upon this option.

It is important to note that not every person charged or convicted of DWI in St. Paul is required to install an interlock device. Unless certain factors apply, a driver that gets their license back will not have to install one of these devices.


Prior Convictions

First-time offenders do not always have to install an ignition interlock device following a DWI arrest. The same is not always true for someone with a prior conviction. Of course, not all prior DWI convictions will apply. An interlock is only required for drivers who have a prior DWI conviction 10 years before their current arrest. A person whose only prior DWI conviction is outside of that 10-year window will not be required to obtain an interlock device. In addition to a previous arrest, anyone who has previously had their license revoked for DWI in the past 10 years must install an interlock device.


High Breath Test Readings

A driver with a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will also have to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle. Specifically, any person with a BAC of .16 or above faces an ignition interlock device requirement. This is true even for first-time offenders.

In this situation, the device is required should the individual obtain a limited license to drive during the course of their revocation period. There is no requirement that a person obtains one of these licenses, so they could instead choose to simply not drive during the year or more their license is suspended.


Requirements for an Interlock

It should be noted that while an ignition interlock device can be a hassle, not every driver in St. Paul will qualify for one following a DWI arrest. Some parties will not have the option—which can leave them without any way to get around in some cases.

First and foremost, an interlock is only an option for adults age 18 or older. That means minors that have been arrested for DWI do not have the option to obtain an ignition interlock device.

In order to drive, a person must also install a device on every vehicle they intend to use. They are barred from using any other vehicle outside of those with an interlock device installed. These vehicles can be personally owned, but it also allowed to use a company car for these purposes.

Finally, every vehicle using an interlock device must be insured. The state requires proof of insurance that lasts a minimum of one year. This proof must be on file with every vehicle you intend to drive.


Dangers Associated with Ignition Interlock Devices in St. Paul

A growing number of states are currently expanding their use of ignition interlock devices following DWI arrests. There are statistics that suggest the use of these devices decreases the number of impaired drivers on the roadways. Unfortunately, there is also evidence that the devices themselves tend to be dangerous.

It may be true that an ignition interlock device could stop a drunk driving accident before it happens. Unfortunately, the use of these devices has also caused accidents that might have been otherwise avoidable.

The reality about ignition interlock devices is that they can serve as a distraction in some cases. This is due in part to something known as a “rolling retest.” Ignition interlock devices require more than a single breath sample prior to driving. Many models also require drivers to give samples while they are behind the wheel.

The purpose of this feature is to prevent drivers from starting their vehicle and then consuming alcohol. While the hope is to prevent drivers from becoming intoxicated behind the wheel, requiring breath tests while driving has led to accidents in other ways.

To use the ignition interlock device, a driver must take their attention away from the road. Even if providing the breath sample only takes a moment, fumbling for the device or attempting to focus on giving an accurate reading draws a driver’s attention away from the task of operating their motor vehicle.


The Possibility of False Positives

There are other issues that arise with these devices that can be problematic. Not only can an ignition interlock device cause your vehicle to stop working, but the evidence of a positive test could be used in criminal proceedings. The problem is, these tests are not always accurate.

Ignition interlock devices have the potential to lead to false positives. This is especially common given that motorists with these devices installed are not experts in the use of breathalyzer devices. Manufacturers of these devices have identified a number of substances with the potential to cause false positives, including:

  • Fruit juice
  • Bread
  • Vinegar
  • Toothpaste
  • Gum
  • Breath mints
  • Energy drinks
  • Spicy foods
  • Cough medicine
  • Vanilla extract
  • Pizza


Talk to a St. Paul DWI Lawyer About Your DWI Case

The hassle of an ignition interlock device is only one of the consequences that can come with a DWI arrest or conviction. You could also face jail time, fines, and other serious consequences. It is important to remember that these consequences could be avoided with the help of a skilled attorney on your side.

The attorneys of Gerald Miller understand what it takes to fight back against a DWI charge in St. Paul. Our team has a long track record of success with these cases, and we are prepared to aggressively pursue the defense strategy that is right for you. Call as soon as possible to schedule your free consultation with the St. Paul DWI Lawyer at Gerald Miller.

About the author

Gerald Miller

Gerald Miller is a top-notch and experienced DWI/DUI lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. in Minneapolis, MN. He has more than 35 years of experience in Criminal Defense practice. He has also been a mentor to numerous DUI/DWI defense attorneys.

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