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What is an ignition interlock device and when do you need to install one on your vehicle?

In addition to the potential for fines, prison time, a suspended license, loss of your job, and other consequences for a DUI conviction, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle if you have been convicted of DUI in SC.

Below, we will cover the basics of ignition interlock devices including:

  • Emma’s Law and what it means if you are convicted of first-offense DUI,
  • How ignition interlock devices work,
  • When you are required to install an ignition interlock device, and
  • Criminal penalties for driving without an IID.

Ignition Interlock Devices in SC – What is Emma’s Law?

Emma’s Law is legislation that was passed in SC in 2014 in response to the death of a young girl who was killed in a traffic accident by a repeat DUI offender.

Although Emma’s Law did not create the ignition interlock device system in SC, it added strict requirements for first-time and repeat DUI offenders, mandating that any repeat offender and any first-time offender with a BAC of .15 or greater must install a camera-equipped ignition interlock device on their vehicle before they can drive.

First-time offenders who have a BAC result of less than .15 are not required to install an IID, but they will have the option to use an ignition interlock device instead of serving out their suspension.

Under SC Code § 56-5-2941, any person who is convicted of DUI (driving under the influence), DUAC (driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration), felony DUI, or child endangerment based on a DUI-related offense must install an “an ignition interlock device designed to prevent driving of the motor vehicle if the person has consumed alcoholic beverages” before they can drive again.

The only exception is if a person was convicted of first-offense DUI and their breathalyzer result was less than .15, but these defendants can choose to participate in the program instead of waiting out their license suspension period.

The driver must complete the ADSAP program before they are eligible to participate in the ignition interlock device program (IIDP).

How do Ignition Interlock Devices Work?

The ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer device that the driver must breathe into before driving. If the device detects an unacceptable level of alcohol on the breath, the vehicle will not start.

How Long Does the IID Have to Remain on the Vehicle?

The length of time that a driver must keep an ignition interlock device on their vehicle depends on their conviction:

  • 1st offense DUI (BAC .15 or greater): 6 months,
  • 2nd offense DUI: minimum of 2 years,
  • 3rd offense DUI: minimum of 3 years, and
  • 4th offense or subsequent DUI: lifetime.

Getting the Ignition Interlock Device Installed

First, the court notifies the DMV of the DUI conviction. Then, SCDMV notifies the SC Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services (SCDPPPS) that the driver has been convicted of DUI and is eligible for the ignition interlock device program (IIDP), and SCDPPPS notifies the driver by mail at the address DMV has on file for the driver.

The ignition interlock device must be installed by one of three certified vendors in SC:

  • Smart Start: 1-888-880-3394.   Locations: Anderson, Greenville, Lexington, Myrtle Beach, North Charleston, Port Royal, Rock Hill, Spartanburg, Sumter.
  • LifeSafer: 1-888-861-1172.  Locations: North Charleston, Pawleys Island, Conway, Aiken, Florence, Columbia, Anderson, Rock Hill, Greenville, Spartanburg.
  • Guardian: 1-800-499-0994.  Locations: Beaufort, North Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Aiken, Sumter, Florence, West Columbia, Columbia, Rock Hill, Spartanburg, Gaffney, Easley.

Once the IID has been installed, the driver can get an ignition interlock restricted license (IIRL) at the DMV. Fees must be paid during the process, and the driver will then be monitored by SCDPPPS for the duration of their license suspension period.

Note that, if there are multiple DUI convictions, the driver must remain in the IIDP as each suspension is served consecutively (one after the other).

Criminal Penalties for Driving without an Ignition Interlock Device

SC law also provides criminal penalties for driving a motor vehicle that is not equipped with a properly operating, certified ignition interlock device:

  • First Offense: a misdemeanor that carries up to one year in prison and a six-month extension of the IID requirements.
  • Second Offense: a misdemeanor that carries up to three years in prison and a one-year extension of the IID requirements.
  • Third Offense: a felony that carries up to ten years in prison and a three-month extension of the IID requirements.

What are Ignition Interlock Points?

Once you are participating in the ignition interlock device program, you will be monitored by the SCDPPPS and can be punished for violations through a points system:

  • Two points or more extends the IID requirement by two months,
  • Three points or more extends the IID requirement by four months and the driver must complete a substance abuse program, and
  • Four points or more suspends the driver’s ignition interlock restricted license for six months and the driver must complete a substance abuse program.

Can I Appeal an Assessment of Ignition Interlock Points (IIPs) by SCDPPPS?

If SCDPPPS makes a mistake in assessing ignition interlock points for violations, you can appeal administratively by filing a Notice of Appeal with the SCDPPPS within 15 days of the date on the IIP assessment letter (which means you will have less than 15 days to file your Notice), with a copy of the IIP assessment letter attached to your Notice of Appeal.

You won’t get an evidentiary hearing and you won’t get an opportunity to argue your case, but an SCDPPPS hearing officer will review the appeal and make a final decision.

Questions About DUI and Ignition Interlock Devices in SC?

If you are charged with driving under the influence in SC, DUI lawyer Kent Collins will investigate your charges, answer your questions, and do everything legally and ethically possible to get your case dismissed, win your case at trial, or find a resolution that is fair and reasonable, including avoiding ignition interlock device requirements whenever possible.

Get in touch with Kent by phone at 803-808-0905 or use this form to reach him online to schedule your in-person consultation.

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