In 1986, California became the first state to begin an ignition interlock pilot program. Today, the state requires ignition interlocks only for repeat drunk driving offenders with the exception of offenders in the counties of Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare. A California pilot program in these counties, which cover a population of over 13 million people, requires all offenders to install the device.
Despite the the state’s early and strong use of ignition interlocks, California had 774 DUI fatalities in 2011. That same year, 28 percent of total traffic deaths were drunk driving-related and 310,971 drunk drivers were repeat offenders.
Anyone who operates a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more in California is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). The consequences of DUI in California include a fine, jail time, and driver’s license suspension:
- 1st Conviction: $390-$1,000 fine; 96 hours to 6 months in jail; 6-month license suspension
- 2nd Conviction: $390-$1,000 fine; 90 days to 1 year in jail; 2-year license suspension
- 3rd Conviction: $390-$1,000 fine; 120 days to 1 year in jail; 3-year license suspension
- 4th and Subsequent Convictions: $390-$1,000 fine; 180 days to 1 year in jail; 4-year license suspension
A convicted drunk driver’s license will be reinstated upon proof of financial responsibility and successful completion of a driving-under-the-influence program. Some convicted drunk drivers will also have to install an ignition interlock device.
California also has a DUI child endangerment law that increases jail time to 48 consecutive hours for a 1st offense, 10 days for a second offense, 30 days for a third offense, and 90 days for fourth and subsequent offenses if the drunk driver committed the offense while a child under the age of 14 was in the vehicle.
Ignition Interlock Laws
Under an ignition interlock pilot program, all convicted drunk drivers, including first-time offenders, in the counties of Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare are required to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles before their license can be reinstated. Offenders must keep the device installed for five months for a first offense, 12 months for a second offense, 24 months for a third offense, and 36 months for fourth and subsequent offenses.
In the rest of the state, only repeat offenders are required to install the device. However, first-time offenders with a BAC of 0.15 or higher may be required to install the device at the discretion of the judge. The court will determine how long the device must be kept installed.