Maryland Updates Ignition Interlock Law with Camera Requirements

Maryland Ignition Interlock Law: Camera Requirement Update

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 10,000 people died in alcohol-related car crashes between 2010 and 2019 – an average of nearly 30 people per day. Crucially, the NHTSA has also reported that nearly 30% of alcohol-impaired driving charges involve repeat offenders.

Given the statistical likelihood of repeat offenses, and in an effort to try to reduce drunk driving-related accidents, many states (including Maryland) have implemented the use of ignition interlock devices for those convicted of a DWI. And in 2019, Maryland updated the law to require the use of a camera on these interlock devices – one of the first states to include this requirement.

What is an Ignition Interlock?

Before we discuss the new camera requirement, let’s talk a little about ignition interlocks. In the simplest terms, an ignition interlock is a device that is hooked up to a car’s ignition and placed on the vehicle dashboard. The device includes a breathalyzer, which the driver must blow into in order to start the car. If the breathalyzer detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that is above a certain limit (.025 in Maryland), the engine won’t start.

While you’re driving, these devices also perform what’s called a “rolling retest”. A rolling retest works the same way as the initial test, except that it occurs a few moments after you’ve started driving. The ignition interlock alerts you that a retest is about to occur and gives you a set amount of time to pull over and park your car. You then have to blow into the breathalyzer again and your BAC is re-evaluated. If it measures above the limit, it triggers an alarm on the device, (contrary to some reports, the car doesn’t automatically shut off after a failed rolling retest), and you are penalized (typically a suspension of your license).

Why Has Maryland Added a Camera Requirement?

There’s no doubt that ignition interlocks are effective: the CDC has reported that these devices reduce repeat offenses of alcohol-impaired driving by roughly 70%. But they aren’t a fail-safe solution. For example, drivers have tried to get around the restrictions by having someone else blow into the breathalyzer. Conversely, if someone other than the owner of the car needs to drive the car and their BAC is below the legal limit of .08 but above the .025 limit that the device allows, the owner of the car could be penalized unfairly.

That’s where cameras come in. These cameras take a photo of the person right as they blow into the breathalyzer and send it directly to the device provider, providing comprehensive proof of who is taking the test; there’s no chance of cheating the system by having another person blow into the device. Crucially, they also absolve the car owner of blame if someone else tries to start or drive the car and fails the test. These cameras don’t have video capabilities and they only take photos when a test is being administered; the photos are kept private and are only seen by representatives of the device manufacturer whose job it is to review them. By adding a camera requirement, Maryland lawmakers have taken an extra step to try to ensure the well-being of everyone on the road.

What if I’m Wrongly Accused or Penalized?

Even with these safeguards in place, there is a chance that you may be wrongly accused of trying to drive under the influence due to an error with the ignition interlock. If you live in Maryland and you believe this to be the case, contact the Law Offices of Nicholas Parr in Baltimore today to schedule your free consultation. We don’t receive a fee unless we win.