Proposed Ignition Interlock Devices Could Mean Jail for Innocent Motorists

The Ohio legislature is considering a bill that would require the installation of an alcohol ignition interlock devices in vehicles owned by those convicted of drunk driving. The idea is receiving a generally favorable response from the public, though DUI defense attorneys want to make sure everyone knows the downside of the equipment. Specifically the possibility of false readings that could result in an innocent motorist being jailed for probation violation.

Columbus DUI lawyer Brad Koffel has successfully challenged the accuracy and reliability of ignition interlock devices in court. Koffel states, “these small machines are not specific for alcohol, are too sensitive to outside temperature changes, are not compatible with new electronics in newer car models, are easily tricked, provide more false positives than true positive results, and that is before you get around to the lack of training for the folks who are installing them for the courts.”

DUI defense lawyer Koffel recently represented a businessman who was ordered to install an ignition interlock device in his vehicle after being convicted of an Ohio DUI. The client had dutifully used the equipment for 10 months before attempting to start his SUV. The company that installed and monitors the device then sent a letter to the courts saying that Koffel’s client had failed two times. That suggested the motorist had consumed alcohol before attempting to start his vehicle. Despite his denials of drinking and driving, he faced almost six months in jail for violating the terms of his probation.

An investigation conducted by Koffel showed the interlock device had actually recorded 35 ‘failures’, not two, indicating persistent, questionable readings from the equipment. The president of the interlock company admitted that many foods, other than alcohol, can cause false positives. Fortunately, one of the ‘failures’ was recorded when the accused motorist was documented as being in Koffel’s office.

As a result of Koffel’s findings, the presiding judge in the case ordered the immediate removal of the ignition interlock device from the defendant’s vehicle. In his summary, the judge questioned the science and legitimacy of the devices.

The unreliability of ignition interlock devices is resulting in unusual actions on the part of motorists. Koffel says, “We are learning that clients are simply leaving their vehicles on with the doors locked instead of turning off the vehicle and running the risk that it will take 15 – 90 minutes for the interlock to permit them to start the vehicle again.” Koffel and other Ohio DUI defense attorneys hope that legislatures fully investigate the reliability of the equipment and question the claims of manufacturer’s before passing a law that could result in people being wrongly accused of violating their probation and being sent to jail.

Brad Koffel limits his practice to DUI defense. He is a member of the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers DUI / OVI Task Force. Mr. Koffel can be contacted through

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