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Texas DWI Penalties and the Role of Ignition Interlock Devices

Car keys and glass of alcohol on table in pub or restaurant.

Being charged with DWI can have lasting consequences.

There are a lot of penalties that come with a Texas DWI conviction - even for a first offense. One of the more long-term and inconvenient consequences is being ordered to use and maintain Ignition Interlock Devices, IIDs, on all vehicles. These small devices require drivers to provide a breath sample before ignition. If alcohol is detected or no sample is given, the vehicle will not start.

IIDs are intended to stop people convicted of DWI from driving under the influence. However, they are also prone to making errors that can cause trouble for someone trying to get their life back on track following a DWI conviction. Known IID issues include:

  • Detecting alcohol on a driver who recently used mouthwash.
  • Detecting alcohol on a driver who ate baked goods containing yeast and sugar (bread, donuts, etc.).
  • Equipment malfunction leading to false positive or incorrect reading.
  • Electrical connectivity problems.

A poorly functioning IID can stop a person from commuting to work, picking up their children, running errands, etc. It could also make a false violation report. Aggressively fighting drunk driving charges with the help of an experienced Conroe DWI attorney is the best way to avoid IID hassles. Here is more information about Texas' IIDs for DWIs program.

When did Texas start requiring IIDs?

In 2015, Texas overhauled some of its DWI laws. From this came the requirement that drivers with DWI-suspended licenses must use IIDs. If a driver fails an IID test, the device goes into a temporary lockout - usually about two minutes - before asking for a new breath sample. If the re-test fails, the IID will lock out again. Depending on the type of device, the testing process can continue until a clean breath sample is provided or completely lock the driver out, necessitating professional help to get it going again.

An IID lockout can do a lot more than make a person late or unable to get where they need to go. Failed tests may violate the driver's court order and lead to additional penalties, like fines, imprisonment, or license suspension/revocation. Although every case is unique, Texas typically considers the following IID-related violations:

  • Testing at or above the fail level - which could be lower than the standard 0.08 percent BAC.
  • Skipping or failing a rolling re-test.
  • Missing an IID service appointment.

Steps to apply for an IID Restricted Driver License in Texas

Following a DWI conviction, the court sends an IID order notice to the state licensing authority, which then issues a notice of cancelation of driving privileges. Usually, an individual has 30 days from the notice date to obtain and install an IID and apply for an IID license. Otherwise, their driving privileges are canceled.

  • Pay fees. The first thing an individual must do to obtain an IID-restricted license is pay interlock license and reinstatement fees.
  • Submit IID Restricted Driver License application. With fees paid, a driver is free to submit an application for an IID-restricted license. It can take up to 21 or more business days for the request to be processed.
  • Buy a certified IID. Drivers are required to purchase state-certified IIDs for each vehicle they regularly drive. In Montgomery County, the most frequently used IIDs are manufactured by Dräger, Intoxalock, LifeSafer, and Smart Start.
  • Make an appointment with a licensed installer. To satisfy court conditions, certified IIDs can only be installed by licensed IID service centers. Montgomery County has about a dozen facilities approved to install, maintain, or remove IIDs in Conroe, Hockley, Magnolia, Porter Heights, Spring, and Willis, among other communities.
  • Bring paperwork. At the installation, drivers are usually required to submit the following: two forms of photo ID, court paperwork, proof of residence, car insurance, and vehicle registration.
  • Monthly fees and service. Drivers must pay monthly IID rental fees and bring the devices in for servicing every 30 days.
  • Removing an IID. An IID can only be removed upon successful competition of a court order. Processing a removal request can take up to 21 or more business days. A service center will need a court seal or vendor removal form signed by a judge or county clerk before work can begin.
  • Get back on the road. Once the interlock restriction has been removed, a driver can apply for a duplicate license at any motor vehicle license office in Texas.

Experienced DWI defense that is always on your side

IIDs are not perfect. Last year, the Texas Regulatory Services Division received six complaints, conducted eight investigations, and did two inspections related to IIDs. If you were arrested for drunk driving in Conroe, Montgomery County, or the Houston area, don't accept the charges as a conviction, fight back. Contact Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer to arrange a free case evaluation.