Every July, new Criminal & Traffic laws go into effect in Virginia.  One of the more noteworthy changes in 2012 concerned the requirement for Ignition Interlock Devices following Virginia DUI / DWI convictions.  

Whenever someone is convicted of a DUI / DWI offense in Virginia, there is a mandatory license suspension.  The length of the suspension in Virginia depends on whether it is a 1st DUI / DWI offense, a 2nd DUI / DWI offense within 10 years or a 3rd DUI / DWI offense within 10 years.  For 1st offenses, the license suspension in Virginia is one year.  For 2nd offenses within 10 years, the license suspension in  Virginia is 3 years.  For 3rd offenses committed within 10 years the suspension in  Virginia is indefinite.

Following all DUI / DWI convictions, the offender can eventually request a Restricted License which will allow driving for a few limited purposes such as employment; education; medical; getting kids to school, day care and doctors; probationary obligations; church; and a few others.  The length of time the offender has to wait before making the request depends once again on whether it is a 1st offense, a 2nd offense or a 3rd offense.  Of course, simply being allowed to make the request doesn't mean the request will be granted by the Court.  

However, prior to 2012, Virginia law required the use of an Ignition Interlock Device as a condition of any such Restricted License if the conviction was either for (1) a 2nd or subsequent DUI / DWI offense within 10 years, or (2) a 1st DUI / DWI offense if the breath test or blood test indicated a BAC of 0.15 or more.  Courts still had the power to order an Ignition Interlock Device for 1st DUI / DWI offenses with a BAC below 0.15, but Virginia law did not require it.  

The 2012 change closed that loop and made the use of Ignition Interlock Devices mandatory in ALL cases in Virginia in which an offender is given a Restricted License following a DUI / DWI conviction.

An Ignition Interlock Device is essentially a breath alcohol testing machine that is installed in the vehicle and is designed to prevent operation of the vehicle by anyone with alcohol on the breath.  Before the vehicle will start, the driver must blow into the machine and if alcohol is detected on the breath, the vehicle will not start.  Similarly, the driver is required to randomly provide breath samples while operating the vehicle, to try eliminate the possibility that a person who has not been drinking blows in the machine to get the vehicle started and someone else - who has been drinking - drives the vehicle away.  Some units also have cameras which take a picture of the person blowing in the machine, which obviously addresses this concern. 

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