Wisconsin Ignition Interlock Device Laws
Among the penalties handed down for OWI charges in Wisconsin, Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs) provide a preventive solution to drivers convicted of an OWI with a particularly high BAC level, or those who’ve been caught driving drunk repeatedly.
As the technology behind the devices becomes both cheaper and more efficient, they are increasingly being used as a measure to curb the potentially disastrous effects of OWI before they occur.
Since 2010, Wisconsin, among other states, has passed legislation making these devices mandatory for individuals convicted of OWI under certain circumstances.
Whether you’ve been issued this device or not, all drivers should be aware of what these devices do, and under what circumstances you can be forced to install one into your own vehicle.
1. What is an Ignition Interlock Device?
To prevent inebriated individuals from operating their vehicle, an IID is installed into the driver’s dashboard. Much like a breathalyzer used by law enforcement officers, the driver must exhale into a mouthpiece before starting the engine.
The IID analyzes the BAC level of the breath sample and allows the operator to turn on the engine if the breath sample registers below the programmed BAC threshold. In the case that the operator gives a sample above the threshold, the ignition remains barred from use and the vehicle remains unusable.
Today’s IIDs also ensure that drivers do not start drinking once they’ve activated their vehicles by requiring additional breath samples while the vehicle is in use. If a sample isn’t provided, or the IID detects an unacceptable BAC level, the machine records the event, warns the driver that they are not permitted to drive, and then initiates an alarm until the car is shut off.
2. Who is subject to IID installation?
With legislation passed in 2010, the law states that an IID must be installed for anyone:
- Found guilty of a second OWI offense or greater.
- Who registered a BAC of .15 or higher on their first offense
- Who refused a breath or blood test at a traffic stop
The length of time you’re required to use the device almost always coincides with the length of your suspension.
It’s also important to note that once you’re given the requirement to install an IID, it includes every vehicle owned by or registered to the offender. The offender is not permitted to drive a vehicle without an IID while their privileges are restricted.
OWI Penalties in Wisconsin
Sentencing guidelines vary by county according to judicial district. There are 10 judicial districts in Wisconsin. You can find yours here.
In Dane County, for example, the penalties for a first-offense OWI include a $150-$300 Forfeiture [346.65(2)(am)1.] and 6-9 month license revocation [343.30(1q)(b)2.] with no waiting period for an occupational license [343.30(1q)(b)2.]
Penalties also vary according to the details of the offense. For example, if at least one of the following is true of your case, you may be subject to additional penalties:
- A passenger under the age of 16 was in the offender's car at the time they were pulled over.
- Your BAC was exceptionally high
- You circumvented the Ignition Interlock Device
- You were operating a commercial vehicle at the time you were pulled over
- You were under the legal drinking age at the time you were pulled over
However, some offenders may apply and qualify for an occupational license, which allows them to drive a vehicle with an IID installed in order to perform necessary daily tasks like commuting to work or school.
An offender may become eligible for an occupational license after a certain period of time, depending on the details of their offense and driving record.
For example, in many cases, someone who has committed their first OWI will be immediately eligible to apply for an occupational license, while a repeat offense OWI often requires a waiting period of at least 45 days.
3. How long will I need to have the device installed?
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, IIDs must be ordered for a minimum of one year. As stated before, each case will depend on the specific suspension you are given, and this restriction begins immediately. For those receiving an operating privilege, the period begins either when your operating privilege is reinstated, or you are issued an occupational license.
If for any reason you fail to install the device, remove it, disconnect it, or circumvent it, you’ll face a six-month extension. Failing to comply with an IID order can also result in hundreds of dollars of fines and possible jail time.
4. Can I wait out the IID order?
No, you cannot. You may be prosecuted with failure to comply if you do not follow the order. While you may choose not to drive during the license revocation/suspension period, the clock on your IID order will start when the DMV issues a license for you.
For example, if your revocation/suspension period is over but your IID requirement is not, you will be issued a regular, class D license with IID requirements.
4. Ignition Interlock Costs
When it comes to purchasing and installing IIDs, the responsibility for ignition interlock installation and ignition interlock cost rests solely on the driver.
Typically, costs run between $1,200-$1,400 per year for one vehicle.
Some low-income offenders may qualify to pay half the cost of installing and removing IIDs and half the cost of the daily fee per vehicle.
5. How do you get an IID?
Research local service centers in your area certified to carry out IID installation and maintenance. You can find the Wisconsin DMV's list of IID vendors here.
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Wisconsin Criminal Defense Attorney Pat Stangl has been successfully defending clients against criminal charges since 1991, including all types of drunk driving and driving under the influence charges such as OWI, DUI, DWI, BAC, PAC and more.
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