Texas has strict driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws. The definition of DWI is driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher. A driver could also receive a DWI charge for driving under the influence of drugs. The penalties for a DWI conviction in Texas can include expensive fines and jail sentences. The courts could also order the installation of an ignition interlock device.

What Is an Ignition Interlock Device?

An ignition interlock device is a Breathalyzer system that attaches to the interior of a vehicle. It locks a vehicle’s ignition and only unlocks it if the driver blows alcohol-free breath into the system. The handheld Breathalyzer fits into the center console of the vehicle. If the courts also require a camera, this will mount onto the front windshield. The purpose of an ignition interlock device is to prevent someone from driving while intoxicated. If the courts order a drunk driver to get an ignition interlock device, he or she must pay the related costs of purchase and installation.

Currently, an ignition interlock device cannot screen drivers for drugs. The Breathalyzer can only detect alcohol. Driving under the influence of drugs, however, could result in a subsequent DWI conviction and more severe penalties. Many courts prevent the possibility of a DWI driver using someone else’s alcohol-free breath to start the car by also requiring a camera installed on the windshield. Ignoring the ignition interlock device requirement or tampering with the device could lead to additional misdemeanor offenses.

When Might a Court Require an Ignition Interlock Device?

Driving with a BAC at or above 0.08% could automatically result in a DWI charge in Texas and could cause car accidents that could result in catastrophic injuries. The legal BAC limit drops to 0.04% for commercial drivers and any detectable amount of alcohol for a driver under age 21. If the police officer suspects drug intoxication, he or she may also issue a DWI charge. If the prosecution succeeds in proving the driver’s intoxication, the defendant could face serious penalties.

  • 72 hours to 10 years in jail or prison
  • $2,000 to $10,000 in fines
  • 90 days to 2 years license suspension
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device

For a first DWI offense in Texas, the courts will only require an ignition interlock device if the driver needs to obtain an occupational license, or a license for driving to work or school, during the temporary license suspension period. For a second or subsequent DWI conviction, however, the courts will always require ignition interlock devices. The courts may also require this device for defendants requesting DWI nondisclosure, which restricts access to the driver’s criminal record.

How Long Will the Order Last?

The rule of thumb is to require ignition interlock restriction on every vehicle the driver owns for at least 50% of the amount of time the courts place the driver under supervision. The standard requirement for an ignition interlock device is one year. This drops to six months for first-offense DWI drivers attempting to receive their occupational licenses. Failing to use the ignition interlock device for the required amount of time could result in additional fines and penalties against the driver.

Where To Get an Ignition Interlock Device?

If the courts in Texas require you to install an ignition interlock device after a DWI conviction, you will need to pay for the costs of purchase/lease and installation yourself. The average price is $70 to $150 for the initial installation, plus a monthly fee of $60 to $80 for device monitoring. You may qualify for financial relief through a state-funded program if you cannot afford to purchase, rent and/or install the device. You can search for an interlock device online or ask the courts for assistance. Make sure you install the type of system and/or camera the courts require for your unique case.