3 FAQs about ignition interlock devices and DUI convictions in Tennessee

Criminal penalties for DUI convictions in Tennessee can include mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.

Driving under the influence (DUI) in Tennessee is a serious offense. In the event that a DUI charge becomes a conviction, the driver can face various criminal penalties. These penalties can include hefty fines and jail time.

A fairly recent penalty has also evolved: mandatory ignition interlock device installation. These devices are installed on the individual's vehicle. The individual is then required to provide a breath sample before the device will allow the vehicle to start.

Anyone that is facing a DUI charge in Tennessee can benefit from a basic understanding of the implications of these penalties. Since the ignition interlock device is fairly new, a number of questions about its use are common. Some of the more frequently asked questions are answered below.

#1: When are drivers required to use an ignition interlock device in Tennessee?

Tennessee state law allows for a court "in its discretion" to require use of an ignition interlock device with the first DUI conviction. In reality, this means that drivers are almost always required to use the ignition interlock device. This is a fairly recent change which went into effect in July of 2013.

The change also resulted in an additional requirement: the use of in-vehicle cameras. These cameras are designed to better ensure that the driver is the one providing the breath sample to start the vehicle, not a passenger.

#2: How long does the driver have to have the ignition interlock device?

The amount of time generally varies with the degree of the offense. The required use is often part of the restrictions placed on the individual's driver's license.

However, in some cases the courts are allowed to require the use of this device for up to one year after the driver's license is no longer suspended or put on any restrictions. The required period of use should be stated clearly on the record and generally requires 120 negative screens before the driver can have the device removed from his or her vehicle.

#3: Who pays for it?

The driver is generally responsible for the costs associated with these devices. The Tennessee Department of Safety Highway Patrol Division's Rules of Ignition Interlock Device Program note that the costs of these devices should be set "at a reasonable rate." The rules go on to elaborate that the fee of the installation should not exceed $150. Fees connected to the leasing, monitoring and maintaining of the devices are not to exceed $100 per month and removal should not exceed $75.

#4: Do I need a lawyer?

This bonus question is also common. The answer is generally yes, it is often wise to seek legal counsel when facing allegations of drunk driving. A DUI conviction comes with harsh criminal penalties. These charges can be fought. An experienced DUI attorney can build a defense to your case, better ensuring that your legal rights are protected.