In July 2012, Virginia started requiring ignition interlock devices to be installed in the cars of all people convicted of drunk driving offenses. The devices require drivers to take a breath alcohol test before they can start their cars.

Proponents of the law say it has led to a significant drop in repeat-offender DUIs. Some estimates say repeat offenses have dropped by as much as 67%. It’s hard to say if this has translated to fewer DUI-related accidents.

However, there remain many questions about the law and how it has been enforced. Recently, a Virginia woman talked to news reporters about her experience getting an interlock device installed in her car a full 12 years after her DUI conviction.

The woman said she was convicted of DUI in 2007. It was her second DUI conviction in five years, and she was sentenced to three years in prison as a repeat offender. When she was free, she said she was determined to turn her life around. However, she could not get her license back because she could not afford to pay off the outstanding fines. In 2018, she had finally saved up enough money to pay off the fines, but was told she would also have to have an interlock device, at least temporarily.

The woman’s case is unusual because her conviction occurred before the 2012 law went into effect, but thousands of Virginia drivers have been required to have the devices installed in their vehicles at their own expense.

Whether or not it prevents DUI-related accidents, the ignition interlock requirement is another penalty people face when they are convicted of DUI, along with steep fines and even jail time. Everyone accused of DUI has the right to a defense. A defense attorney can help drivers understand their options for defending themselves and limiting the damage these charges can do to their freedom, finances and futures.