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Ignition Interlock: How An OWI Can Go From Bad To Worse

By March 27, 2015April 28th, 2020No Comments

For OWI first offenses Wisconsin makes mandatory the ignition interlock device (IID) in cases where a driver’s alcohol concentration is at or above 0.15 at the time of driving, or in all cases of a refusal to submit to a chemical test. Please note the chemical test should not be confused with the preliminary breath test (PBT), which is typically given on the side of the road following the field sobriety tests and before the arrest. Drivers do not have to consent to the PBT. The chemical test, on the other hand, is typically given at the police station or at a hospital after the driver has been arrested, and after the officer has read to the driver a form called “Informing the Accused.”

The IID is a device that is installed in the vehicle that has a handheld alcohol sensor device that the driver must blow into before the device will allow the car to start. If the IID is required, the driver must have it installed for a period of twelve months.

Additionally, there are costs and fees associated with having the IID installed, such as an installation fee and monthly maintenance fees charged by a Wisconsin DOT-approved vendor. All total, the IID can end up costing drivers between $1,000-$1,500 on top of the other costs associated with an OWI first offense. Further, a person who is stopped and discovered to be driving without the required IID will be arrested and charged with a criminal offense.

In addition to cost, clients have reported that the device can malfunction, or that it will freeze up in winter and not allow the car to start, resulting in having to call a tow truck. Further, there can be a negative stigma attached to a person who must have the IID installed. It can also affect a person’s employment if, for example, the person uses a work vehicle for sales calls.

In some rare circumstances, prosecutors will agree to amend a driver’s alcohol concentration to 0.149 as part of a plea agreement so that the driver is not required to install the IID. This outcome varies by municipality and by prosecutor. Sometimes, prosecutors require a showing that the driver’s alcohol concentration was under 0.15 at the time of actual driving. This can sometimes be shown through an alcohol curve argument, which basically proffers that some of the alcohol in the driver’s stomach had not absorbed yet at the time of driving but had absorbed at the time the test was performed. This showing can sometimes be made if there was alcohol consumed soon before the driving occurred. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney can consult with an expert to help make such a determination. Further, the expert can write an expert’s report which can be used to support such an argument.

In addition to the cost and stress of a first offense OWI, the harsh consequences resulting from an IID requirement can cause your predicament to go from bad to worse. Having an experienced and knowledgeable attorney on your side to evaluate your case and advise as to your options can make all the difference when it comes to your first offense OWI. For questions regarding a first offense OWI in Wisconsin or the Ignition Interlock Device call Attorney Jacob Manian.