Vermont’s Ignition Interlock Program
Vermont now offers a Restricted Driver’s License which allows adult Vermont licensed drivers under suspension or revocation for drunk driving offenses to drive a motor vehicle which has an Ignition Interlock Device installed. This is an extremely important development and is a big change from the former law. It used be that a person with a driver’s license which was suspended or revoked in Vermont for drunk driving could not operate any motor vehicle as long as the suspension or revocation was in effect. Also, there was no way to shorten the suspension period nor did Vermont offer a “work license” as other states do. Now, most people who have a driver’s license which is suspended or revoked for drunk driving can get a Restricted Driver’s License after serving a shortened suspension period and meeting other requirements.
This program tends to be referred to by the public as “ignition interlock” but it is important to understand that the program involves both the Ignition Interlock Device and the Restricted Driver’s License. While the Ignition Interlock Device and the Restricted Driver’s License must exist together, it is important to understand each of these two pieces individually as well as how they fit together.
The following is a summary of key points of the program:
Frequently Asked Questions
A Restricted Driver’s License is a type of driver’s license under which the person can operate only a motor vehicle which is equipped with an Ignition Interlock Device. If a vehicle does not have an Ignition Interlock Device installed, a person with a Restricted Driver’s License cannot legally operate that vehicle. Commercial vehicles, motorcycles, rental cars, etc. cannot be legally operated by a driver with a Restricted Driver’s License. Snowmobiles, ATV’s and boats are also excluded. A person can have separate Ignition Interlock Devices installed in as many personal vehicles as he/she wishes but he/she has to pay the fees associated with each device. A person must have an Ignition Interlock Device installed in at least one vehicle before that person can get a Restricted Driver’s License. It is a crime for a person with a Restricted Driver’s License to operate a vehicle which does not have an Ignition Interlock Device installed.
An Ignition Interlock Device consists of several pieces of equipment which are installed in your car. The Ignition Interlock Device includes a hand held unit which the operator blows into and which measures the alcohol concentration of the operator’s breath (BAC). The Ignition Interlock Device also includes a camera mounted on or near the windshield which takes a picture of the operator every time the hand held device is used. The Ignition Interlock Device also has a module which controls the ability of the vehicle to start and which can operate the horn and vehicle lights. Some Ignition Interlock Devices also have GPS and real-time reporting capability. All Ignition Interlock Devices in Vermont must include the camera but the GPS capability and real-time reporting are required in only some cases. Data from the Ignition Interlock Device is downloaded and transferred to the Vermont DMV for compliance monitoring.
In order to start the vehicle, the operator has to blow into the hand held device. If alcohol above a certain level is detected in the breath sample, the vehicle will not start. Once underway, the Ignition Interlock Device will randomly demand additional breath samples from the operator. If the random sample is not given or if a certain level of alcohol is detected in the random sample, the vehicle’s horn will sound and the vehicle’s lights will flash continuously which powerfully motivates the operator to pull over and turn off the vehicle. It is a crime for a person operating under a Restricted Driver’s License to fail to pull over and shut off the vehicle “as soon as practicable” when a random re-test is failed and the horn and lights start going.
If your regular operator’s license is suspended for drunk driving (DUI), then you likely qualify for a Restricted Driver’s License “unless the alleged offense involved a collision resulting in serious bodily injury or death to another.” If your license suspension is the result of a drunk driving collision in which another person was seriously hurt or was killed, you cannot get a Restricted Driver’s License. Junior Operators cannot get a Restricted Driver’s License. A Restricted Driver’s License is not available to a person suspended for a conviction of driving under the influence of drugs.
In order to qualify for a Restricted Driver’s License, your license must not be suspended for a reason other than DUI. For example, if your license is suspended because you did not pay traffic tickets or failed to pay child support or for some other reason, and you got a DUI, you cannot get a Restricted Driver’s License until you clear up the non-DUI reason for suspension. It does not appear to matter whether your DUI suspension was the product of the DUI civil license suspension, a criminal DUI conviction or both.
Before you are eligible to get a Restricted Driver’s License, you must first serve a shortened period of suspension. The suspension period before which you can get a Restricted Driver’s License depends on whether it is a first or subsequent DUI offense and whether you are under 21. The initial suspension periods for those over 21 are as follows:
- First Offense: 30 days;
- Second Offense: 90 days;
- Third (or higher) offense: 1 year
In addition to being suspended for DUI and serving an initial period of suspension, in order to get the Restricted Driver’s License, you must also:
- Be enrolled in CRASH or an equivalent course. The requirement here is to be enrolled, not to have finished CRASH. This means you can apply for the Restricted Driver’s License before, or while doing, CRASH as long as you have signed up for it.
- Get an SR-22 certificate from your insurance company.
- Pay an enrollment fee.
- Have an Ignition Interlock Device (Ignition Interlock Device) installed in at least one vehicle.
You have to keep the Ignition Interlock Device installed in at least one vehicle as long as you are operating under an Restricted Driver’s License. When you finish the Restricted Driver’s License period and get reinstated to a regular license, you can have the Ignition Interlock Device removed from your vehicle.
The time period in which the Restricted Driver’s License remains in effect is different than the time period of the underlying DUI suspension. For a first or second offense DUI, you can expect to have a Restricted Driver’s License for a time period which is longer than the underlying DUI suspension. Also, the time in which the Restricted Driver’s License must remain in effect starts after the initial suspension period. The time period for the Restricted Driver’s License is also longer for operators under the age of 21.
For a first offense DUI, the Restricted Driver’s License has to be maintained for 6 months (or 9 months if the DUI suspension was based on a refusal). A person with a first offense DUI will have to serve a 30 day suspension before being eligible for the Restricted Driver’s License and then will have to maintain the Restricted Driver’s License for either 6 or 9 more months. Accordingly, a first offense DUI offender who gets a Restricted Driver’s License will not be finished with the Restricted Driver’s License for at least nine or twelve months from the start date of the initial suspension. By way of contrast, the underlying DUI suspension for this person would have been either 3 months or 6 months (refusal).
It may not make sense for a first time DUI offender who is subject to a 90 day suspension to get involved with the Restricted Driver’s License since that person must serve a 30 day suspension before being eligible for a Restricted Driver’s License and would then be only 60 days from eligibility for reinstatement to full driving privileges. The Restricted Driver’s License makes much more sense in the case of a second or higher DUI because the underlying suspensions are 18 months or life.
The time period for a Restricted Driver’s License can also be extended if there are problems while the person has a Restricted Driver’s License. For instance, if you try to start your Ignition Interlock Device enabled vehicle three times (over the entire period) with a BAC of .04 or higher, the Restricted Driver’s License period is extended three months. If a random re-test is failed with a BAC of .04 to .08, three months is added. If a random re-test records a BAC of .08 or higher, six months is added. Time is added for failing to take a required random re-test, attempting to fool or tamper with the device, failing to get the device serviced, etc.
It is a separate crime for a person with a Restricted Driver’s License to tamper with or try to circumvent an Ignition Interlock Device. It is a civil violation subject to a fine to help another person tamper with his/her Ignition Interlock Device.
It does not appear that a person with a Restricted Driver’s License can be involuntarily removed from the program as long as the person keeps renewing the Restricted Driver’s License and maintains an Ignition Interlock Device installed in his/her vehicle. On the other hand, a person who continues to have problems during the Restricted Driver’s License period will keep having the Restricted Driver’s License period extended.
The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles has established a list of companies which are approved Ignition Interlock Device vendors for the Vermont program. You can check the DMV wesbite (dmv.vermont.gov) or call the DMV (802) 828-2050 for the current list of vendors. The vendors can provide you with pricing information. The person with the Restricted Driver’s License is responsible for all costs and fees associated with the Ignition Interlock Device. As an incentive to get an Ignition Interlock Device installed, a person convicted of the crime of drunk driving can have any fine from the criminal case reduced by one-half to defray the cost of the Ignition Interlock Device.
In general, the Ignition Interlock Device program is good for everyone. For the suspended driver, it offers an opportunity to drive legally sooner than would be the case with a DUI suspension. For the community, it offers some security that people who have been convicted or found to have driven while under the influence of alcohol can only operate a vehicle when not drunk and that those operators remain under the microscope as long as the Ignition Interlock Device is in place. The downside for the operator is that the Restricted Driver’s License means being involved in the program longer than a basic DUI suspension and, like probation, this period can get extended if there are problems. Also, the operator is responsible for all the costs and fees associated with the Ignition Interlock Device. There are likely some in the community who oppose the Ignition Interlock Device program because it appears to reduce the consequences of a DUI infraction. On the other hand, the reality has been that many people in the past who were subject to a DUI suspension would drive illegally because Vermont is a rural state with quite limited public transportation options. The Ignition Interlock Device program provides those who desire to follow the rules an opportunity to get back behind the wheel legally but requires them to stay subject to a Restricted Driver’s License longer and be subject to more monitoring than would be the case with a regular DUI license suspension.