How Does the Ignition Interlock Work in Northern Virginia if I am Convicted of a DWI in Fairfax County?

Effective with July 1, 2012, all DUI convictions in Virginia will require an ignition interlock, but only AS A CONDITION OF RESTRICTED LICENSE.  This leaves one little loophole where first-time offenders the option of going one full year without any driving at all.  Upon completion of the ASAP program, and all other conditions and payment of reinstatement fee to the Virginia DMV, they should expect to get their license back.   

There are many other issues related to this modified Mandatory Ignition Interlock law, so clients should be sure to retain an Experienced Fairfax County DUI/DWI Attorney to help through the minefield presented by a case like this.   

(For a discussion of the new mandatory interlock law, check this link);

The information below comes from an actual client who documented his experience for me:  


I've had the interlock installed on my car for a week now.  It has taken some getting used to but I've grown accustomed to blowing into it while driving as necessary and not having to stop the car to do so.  The unit beeps at random intervals at which time you have a six minute timeframe to blow into it, have the unit analyze your breath, show a 'PASS' on the small readout screen, and begin another time interval.  It may be a coincidence, but the ignition mechanism on our car has now failed for the first time within days after the interlock was installed to it requiring a $450 replacement part and $300 worth of labor to install a replacement.  It is all my expense despite my protests to the contrary. 

I understand from my alcohol group participants that the SmartStart mechanism is much easier to operate and remove from the car than previous generation interlock mechanisms offered by other manufacturers.  Since the removable unit that you blow into has a $1,500 replacement value, monthly insurance is offered at approximately $8.00.  You still need to remove the unit when you leave your car as it is sensitive to both heat and cold and doesn't seem to operate normally when exposed to either.  It is worth finding some sort of small bag to carry the unit in to keep it clean and away from any potential contaminants.  It is extremely sensitive.  You won't want to have any alcohol-based hand cleaner or any other related alcohol item in the car when operating the device.  There were people who had worn cologne and had obtained a violation reading on the unit at the SmartStart shop when I was having my unit installed.  They were all outraged at the sensitivity of the device.  You are strongly encouraged to take a sip of water before blowing into the device.  Therefore, always have a bottle of water readily available.  

I was encouraged to practice blowing into a representative unit at the shop since unlike a typical alcohol detection device you have to not only blow but you have to hum for an extended period of time to have the unit register and analyze your breath.  My wife still cannot operate it properly after trying for a week.  Although my wife doesn't smoke, I don't know how a heavy smoker would have the lung capacity to successfully operate the device.  I have gotten dizzy repeatedly attempting to blow into the unit properly at times when it seems to be acting in far too sensitive a manner.  

There was no installation cost and the monthly fee is approximately $75.00.  With the insurance coverage which I recommend, the monthly cost is $82.57.  You have to return each month within a five day window to have the unit re-calibrated and the previous month's data uploaded and presumably forwarded to ASAP if there is even the most slight alcohol violation registered.  You are encouraged to make an appointment with SmartStart to have this done since it takes a while to complete.  However, based upon my limited experience, given the modest number of staff (2 personnel) the appointment schedule is readily disregarded.  I recommend encouraging others to arrive at the appointed time after summoning all the patience you can and be prepared to wait an hour if necessary before your turn.  The shop I went to is only open Monday through Friday between 8:15am and 5:00pm. 

If you cannot blow into the unit properly within the allotted timeframe to provide a satisfactory analysis, or someone borrows your car and doesn't know how to operate the device, or a auto shop technician disregards the unit's beeping warning and you subsequently are 'locked out', you can call an 800 number and receive a lockout code that you input to the interlock device that allows for up to 6 hours to return your car to a SmartStart shop for servicing and reactivation.  I believe the first time you're locked out and receive the code is free but it can cost $50.00 for each additional time.   

That is all I can think of the seems worth mentioning for now.  If you have any questions, please feel free to let me know.  I hope the others you pass this information along to find it useful. 


(Client name Deleted)

Later, I sent a few more questions to the client, and he answered as follows:  

In a message dated 2/8/2012 11:41:11 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, [email protected] writes:

Where is your SmartStart dealer?   Merrifield?   Do you know where their other Northern Virginia locations are?   Were you able to get it installed right away?    
Did you have to go to ASAP and they scheduled the appointment, or could you just call smartstart once you had the Court order?  


The SmartStart dealer in Merrifield is the closest one to my home so I chose to have my interlock device (breathalizer unit and under-dash electrical box and wiring) installed there and that's where I'll return for the monthly appointments for the breathalizer's calibration and uploading of its analysis readings to the SmartStart computer system. 

ASAP provided a list of SmartStart Northern Virginia locations to include:

3135 Colvin Lane, Alexandria, VA  22314

2824 Dorr Ave. Unit E, Fairfax (Merrifield), VA  22031

10400 Morias Ct., Manassas, VA  20110

4901 Commerce Dr., Fredericksburg, VA  22401

1751 N. Main St., Culpeper, VA  22701

126 Windy Hill Ln. Suite 6, Winchester, VA  22602

There are also SmartStart locations in Charlottesville and Harrisonburg.    

In addition, there are also Northern Virginia locations for other interlock providers.  They include National Interlock Service, Draeger Safety Diagnostics, Inc., and Interlock Systems of Virginia.  Let me know if you'd like me to provide their addresses.    

Immediately after my ASAP intake interview I was provided with a list of 'Ignition Interlock Installation Facilities'.  I asked the ASAP front desk personnel to contact SmartStart and they immediately faxed my court paperwork requiring the interlock to the SmartStart main office in Dallas, TX.  SmartStart personnel called me that afternoon to set up an appointment with the shop location of my choosing.  The earliest I was able to schedule an appointment was 5 business days later.  Not legally being able to drive in the interim, my wife drove our car to the shop for the appointment and within 2 and 1/2 hours the device was installed.  During this time we saw a 15 minute training video, were warned what foods not to eat before using the breathalizer, and practiced blowing into the breathalizer to allow it perform its analysis properly.  Again, you don't just blow into it, you have to hum for what I consider to be an extended period of time to have the device analyze your breath properly. 

After the device was installed, my wife drove me to ASAP to provide them with the SmartStart paperwork and receipt of payment proving the device was installed.  ASAP personnel then query your DMV records to ensure that you don't have any other vehicles in your name that haven't had an interlock device installed in them because all of the vehicles that have your name on the title (regardless of whether they are registered or not) are required to have an interlock installed in them.  (Incidentally, I transferred ownership of the other vehicles my wife and I held in joint ownership exclusively to my wife's name which satisfied the ASAP ownership and interlock installation criteria.)  Upon completion of this step, the probation officer at the ASAP front counter signs your court-generated 'green form' which then allows you to legally drive in accordance with the restrictions reflected on the 'green form'.  

My next step is to contact USAA, my auto insurance company, to inquire about high-risk insurance coverage which once underwritten, will provide the DMV with a FR 44 "certificate of insurance".  I'm required to pay for the FR 44 for the next 4 years.  Whew!  I'm certain that it's going to be expensive but I can share more details with you as I proceed.  

I hope this helps and again, if you have any additional questions, please feel free to pass them along to me. 

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