Do Interlock Devices Have Cameras?

Feb 15, 2017

If you have been ordered by the court or DMV to install a car breathalyzer into your vehicle, you may be searching for the right device and provider. Depending on your state, county, or the judge assigned to your case, you may also be required to have a camera installed. Below, we will discuss how an interlock device with a camera works and answer common questions about these machines.

Why Cameras Were Added to Interlock Devices

An interlock device is the combination of a breathalyzer and an immobilizer. It is hooked up to a vehicle’s engine ignitor. If a person wishes to drive their vehicle, they have to provide a breath sample by blowing into their interlock device. Once the sample has been received, the interlock device measures the blood alcohol content percentage on the breath. If below the legal limit, the engine ignites. If above the threshold, the ignitor is inhibited.

While this works fantastically most of the time, some people have gone to great lengths to pass the breathalyzer test, even if that means cheating. An issue that sometimes arises is that a person will have a sober friend blow into the device in order to circumvent the interlock restrictions. To prevent such an occurrence, many ignition interlock device providers have begun to add cameras to their devices. The camera snaps a picture of the driver or person who is blowing into the device and sends it directly to the interlock provider. Such measures ensure that a person upholds their legal obligations and also prevents them from endangering others by driving while intoxicated.

Is the Device Recording Me?

The answer to this very commonly asked question is an emphatic no. The camera on an interlock device is not capable of recording video; it is merely snapping a photo any time a person provides a breath sample. Interlock providers are well aware of the fact that their devices are invasive enough as is without turning your drive into a live stream. They want the process to be as quick and painless as humanly possible. As such, the only times a photo will be taken is during the initial test and then during a rolling retest.

Who Sees the Pictures?

The pictures snapped by the device will not be leaked to the internet or shared on social media. They are kept strictly confidential and are only reviewed by one or two members of the interlock provider’s staff. Workers who evaluate the photos are just seeking to confirm that you are the person who was actually providing the breath sample. To ensure your privacy, the photos are not held by the state, uploaded to a public database, or discoverable under public records requests. When you visit your provider for a recalibration appointment, your camera will be “refreshed,” or wiped clean. This is done to give you peace of mind and to make sure that the camera is working as intended.

Why Are Cameras Beneficial?

Having a camera on your interlock device can help prevent false accusations and incorrect ignition interlock device violations. For example, if a friend, relative, or spouse drove your car, they might drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .05. While that is beneath the legal limit for them, it would be a violation for you. Having a camera provides evidence that you were not the driver responsible for that breath sample.

That said, if you are in the final four months of your ignition interlock mandate and there is a breath sample above .04, certain states such as Washington will not take kindly to such an action, even if someone else is driving. According to Washington state law, if such a thing occurs, it does not matter who the driver is, the IID requirements will be extended by four months—with zero exceptions.  

Does My State Require A Camera?

Currently, the states of Washington and Virginia are the only two states that automatically require an IID with a camera. This condition is necessary regardless of the number of convictions the offender has or the seriousness of the DUI. In other states, an interlock device with a camera may be ordered by a judge but is typically not necessary.

Moving Forward

If you are required to have a camera, remember that you are repaying society for the mistakes you made while drunk driving. By paying your debts and obeying the court order, you will hopefully learn a valuable lesson on the foolishness of driving drunk. While it may seem like a chore, if you “toe the line” you’ll be back to driving regularly in no time at all!

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