Ignition Interlock Devices Make Big Money at the Expense of DUI Convicts

Posted by Steven Eversole | Jun 26, 2011 | 0 Comments

As previously detailed by Alabama DUI Lawyer Blog, state lawmakers recently pushed through a bill that will require those convicted of DUI in certain circumstances to install ignition interlock devices on their vehicles.

But Birmingham DUI Lawyers have been tracking the use of ignition interlock devices for years, even before Alabama lawmakers decided to make these a requirement for some people convicted of DUI. We have noticed how big of a business these devices have become. They are just another tool used by the government to hit the wallets and pocketbooks of people who are convicted of DUI in Alabama.

That's why we are as committed as ever to defending the rights of those who are arrested for this particular crime.


It all started in 1998, when members of Congress passed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. What passage of this act did, among other things, is begin requiring states to start using ignition interlock devices for repeat offenders. It mandated that states follow certain requirements for people convicted of DUI a second or subsequent time. One of those requirements was the ignition interlock device.

Once installed into the ignition area of a vehicle, drivers must blow into a tube to register their blood-alcohol level. If it is below the .08 legal limit in Alabama, the vehicle will start. They are similar to breathalyzer machines used by police in that they can't measure a person's blood-alcohol content level, but can only estimate it based on a person's breath. And, like breathalyzers in Birmingham, they can be misled by outside factors, such as the weather and what a person eats.

The new law in Alabama requires first-time DUI convicts with a blood-alcohol level of .15 or higher to install the device. It also applies to people who were driving with a child under 14 and if someone other than the driver was injured.

Some estimates say the devices can cost around $75 per month to operate, plus installation costs. And because the statute calls for a two-year installation period, that can total somewhere around $2,500 and more if a person fails one test so the device must be re-calibrated. It's no wonder that this has become a multi-million dollar industry after successfully lobbying the government in 1998 to encourage states to use these devices.

Paid lobbyists have been pushing Alabama legislators to create laws allowing their use as a “public safety” device for years. Whichever company wins the state contract to begin installing these devices is going to bring in a windfall of cash. And all of it will be at the expense of taxpayers and people who make mistakes while driving. Let's do the math regarding how much money the state is willing to give to ignition interlock device makers:

According to statewide statistics from 2009, there were 21,905 DUI cases. Of them, 16,912 were convicted, a 77 percent rate. In any given year, about 35 percent of people will refuse a breath test, but of the 65 percent who don't, 40 percent will register a blood alcohol content level of .15 or higher, which will require an ignition interlock device under the new law. Based on other estimations of repeat offenders, it's safe to assume that nearly 11,800 units will be ordered each year and paid for at the expense of the person who is convicted. That is on top of fines and fees, jail time, probation, DUI educational courses and other sanctions.
If nearly 12,000 units are needed, at $75 per month, plus installation ($350) and re-programming ($150), this is going to add up to more than $30 million in business for the company who successfully (again) lobbies the government to use their product.
It's no wonder why this device is so heavily promoted. It is often billed as a device that will “not cost the taxpayers a penny” and keep “drunk drivers off the highway” but it is more of a lucrative investment if you can win the state monopoly to install the devices.

This may just be the tip of the iceberg in terms of costly penalties for DUI convictions. So, if you are arrested for this charge, don't delay. Call today to set up a free consultation so that our firm can help you defend yourself from this costly and embarrassing crime.

If you or someone you know is arrested and needs to talk with a Birmingham DUI lawyer, contact Eversole Law at 205-981-2450 for a free consultation.

Previous Blog Entries:

It's Official: Alabama Becomes 50th State To Pass Ignition Interlock Law for DUI Convictions: June 9, 2011

About the Author

Steven Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama


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