Feds Push for Mandatory Ignition Interlocks in All Maryland DUI Cases

Maryland transportation safety advocates and other groups that favor tougher intoxicated driving laws may soon have a new tool in their arsenal: federal funding for states that require ignition interlock devices for all drivers convicted of driving under the influence - even first-time offenders.

Current Ignition Interlock Law in Maryland

Under current Maryland law, ignition interlock devices are mandatory for drivers convicted of a second or subsequent DUI offense, but they generally are not required for first-time offenders unless they far exceed the 0.08 percent blood alcohol limit or are under the age of 21. Maryland lawmakers have not yet indicated whether they will attempt to expand the ignition interlock requirement to include first-time DUI offenders. However, federal officials say they are finalizing an incentive plan aimed at convincing Maryland and other states to require the devices for all drivers convicted of any DUI offense.

A total of 17 states already have laws requiring ignition interlock use for everyone convicted of DUI, including first-time offenders. With the help of $20.8 million available in highway safety funds, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hopes to convince more states to follow suit. The funds will be reserved for states that require the devices for all DUI convictions.

What Is an Ignition Interlock Device?

An ignition interlock device is an electronic device similar to a Breathalyzer that attaches to a vehicle's ignition system. The driver must blow into the device before starting the vehicle, and the device will prevent the vehicle from starting if the breath sample indicates that the driver's BAC is above a certain limit. Drivers must also provide additional breath samples at random intervals while the vehicle is running.

In Maryland, installation of an ignition interlock device is mandatory for drivers convicted of a second or subsequent DUI offense within five years, as well as for those who register 0.15 percent or above in a blood alcohol test. The devices are also mandatory for drivers under the age of 21 who are convicted of driving with a BAC of 0.02 percent or above. Judges in Maryland may use their discretion in requiring other drivers to participate in the ignition interlock program after a DUI conviction. Participants in the ignition interlock program must pay for the device and monitoring costs themselves - typically around $1,000 per year.

Legal Help for Maryland DUI Charges

Drivers facing DUI charges in Maryland should seek help from an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advise them of their legal options and advocate on their behalf for a fair resolution to the charges.