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Minnesota's Ignition Interlock Program

Under Minnesota's new law, repeat offenders and first-time offenders with a BAC of .16 or higher will be required to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program to drive legally in Minnesota. The new law also allows B-card holders to get their no alcohol use restriction lifted under certain circumstances.

What is an ignition interlock?

An ignition interlock is a breath analyzer device that is wired into a vehicle's starting system. It prevents the vehicle from starting if the driver has consumed too much alcohol. An ignition interlock is about the size of a cellular phone and is attached to the vehicle by a cord that is hidden under the vehicle's dashboard.

The ignition interlock device records data on the breath test, as well as information about how often the vehicle is used and the number of miles driven. When you take the vehicle to the vendor for monthly maintenance appointments, information is downloaded by a computer program for analysis. From this information, the vendor prepares a report for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) that includes information about:

  • Any instances where the driver had an alcohol concentration of 0.02 or higher
  • Any instances where the driver tried to start the vehicle without taking the test
  • Any instances where the driver failed the rolling retest or refused to take it
  • Any bypass of the device (if the driver tampers with or disconnects the device)
  • The number of times the vehicle was started and stopped
  • The distance traveled by the vehicle

How do I participate in the Ignition Interlock Program?

You must do all of the following to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program:

  • Have valid insurance on the vehicle on which the ignition interlock is installed;
  • Pass the DWI driver's license exam;
  • Complete an application for a new driver's license;
  • Pay a $680 reinstatement fee and keep receipt;
  • Sign and date the Minnesota Ignition Interlock Program Participation Agreement. (This is the Agreement spelling out the terms of the program. Any violation would result in license cancellation or revocation.)

After necessary documents are sent to the Department of Public Safety to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program, you must call an approved ignition interlock vendor to schedule an installation appointment. You will also be required to attend a training session along with anyone else who will be driving the vehicle.

How much does an ignition interlock cost?

The costs vary by vendor but estimated costs include:

  • Installation fee—$90–$100
  • Monthly maintenance fee—$60–$125
  • Lock out fee—$50
  • Removal fee—$50

What happens if I fail a breath test?

A failed breath test will be recorded on the interlock device and downloaded at the monthly maintenance appointment. This data is viewed each month by your probation officer or a representative from DVS to verify compliance. After three non-compliant tests between service appointments, the device will notify you of a pending "lock out" that will take effect after 72 hours. You will need to call the interlock vendor for a code within 48 hours of this notice, key this code into the handset and follow up with a service appointment with the interlock installation service center. You will also be required to pay the $50 "lock out" fee.

What happens if I miss a service appointment?

You are allowed a grace period. The time will start counting down hours from 120 (5 days). Five days after the deadline, the device will go into a service lock out, which requires you to call the vendor to obtain a lock out code. Once entered, this code will allow the device to work normally for six hours so that you can get to the installation service center. If the device is not serviced within six hours, you will be in permanent lock out mode, which will require you to tow the vehicle to the installation service center.

Can I start my vehicle without taking the test?

No. You must blow into the device in order to start the car, and the device must record an alcohol-concentration level below the pre-set level before the vehicle will start.

What happens if someone else drives my vehicle and blows a fail?

As the participant, you are responsible for all tests recorded on the vehicle's ignition interlock, whether you are the driver or not. All tests are your responsibility.

Will the interlock device shut off my engine or stop my vehicle?

The interlock system will not shut off your engine if a breath test is failed. It is designed to prevent the car from starting without a passing breath test. If you fail a test while driving, the device records a violation but will not stop your car.

What happens if we only have one vehicle in our family and multiple drivers?

Someone else can drive your car when the ignition interlock has been installed; however, anyone who drives the vehicle must be able to pass the breath test. You are responsible for all readings registered by the interlock, whether you are driving or not. It is recommended that anyone who will be driving the vehicle with the ignition interlock attend the training session during the installation appointment.

Can things I eat, drink, smoke or wear (such as perfume) cause a false-positive reading?

Some substances will affect the test and could give you a false positive.
Mouthwash: Some mouthwash brands and sprays have up to 30 percent alcohol; these will definitely create a positive test on your interlock. It is recommended that you switch to a non-alcoholic mouthwash while using the ignition interlock device. However, alcohol levels from mouthwash or sprays should start to drop within 15 minutes, and washing your mouth out with water will help it drop faster.

Certain foods: Most foods will not cause the ignition interlock device to fail. However, you should be aware that certain foods that may register a failed test unless you take precautions (like rinsing your mouth with water) prior to testing. For example, sugar and active yeast in some bread products (e.g.; cinnamon rolls, doughnuts) can combine to create a low-level alcohol reading. Simply rinse your mouth with water before the test to eliminate the remaining food.

Cigarette smoke and snuff: Always take a few deep breaths before attempting a test if you are a smoker. While cigarette smoke does not affect the interlock reading, you should never blow smoke into the unit.
Perfume, hairspray, after-shave or cologne: Most perfumes and colognes contain alcohol, but the interlock will not react to these substances on your skin, even if they're used in heavy concentrations

How long am I required to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program?

The length of time you need to use the ignition interlock device depends on the number of prior offenses on your record and the length of your license revocation or cancellation period. When you receive information about the program, you should be advised of the minimum length of time that you must participate. This time period may be extended if you violate any of the program rules or if you have other driving-related problems. If you decide to quit the program before completing the time period and requirements, you will be given no credit for participation.

Are there any disadvantages to participating in the Ignition Interlock Program?

Whether the Ignition Interlock Program is worth the cost to you depends on your needs, preferences and level of offense. It is also important to consider, because this is a newly implemented program, the flaws of Minnesota's Ignition Interlock Program have yet to be determined.

Click here for more information on Minnesota's Ignition Interlock Program

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