Ignition Interlock Laws in North Carolina: Key Requirements and Penalties

In recent years, the state of North Carolina has implemented a series of Ignition Interlock Laws to combat the issue of drunk driving. Ignition interlock devices, which require drivers to pass a breathalyzer test before starting their vehicle, have proven effective in reducing the instances of driving under the influence (DUI) and the associated accidents and fatalities. These devices play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of not just the offender, but also others sharing the roadways.

North Carolina’s Ignition Interlock Laws apply to individuals convicted of DUI offenses, depending on certain criteria such as blood alcohol content levels and previous convictions. The overall goal is to prevent recidivism and encourage responsible driving behavior. Through the continued development of these laws and increased awareness among residents, North Carolina aims to establish a safer environment for all its road users.

Overview of Ignition Interlock Laws in North Carolina

Purpose of the Laws

Ignition interlock devices are an effective tool in reducing drunk driving recidivism, and North Carolina has enacted laws to ensure their proper usage for certain convictions. The primary objective of these laws is to prevent alcohol-impaired driving and reduce the risk of alcohol-related crashes1.

Key Definitions

  • Ignition interlock device (IID): A breathalyzer-type device connected to a vehicle’s ignition system, which requires the driver to pass a breath alcohol test before starting the vehicle2.
  • Drunk driving: Driving a motor vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, or under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both.
  • Recidivism: The repetition of illegal behavior, such as driving under the influence, after previous conviction(s) for the same offense.

Applicable Vehicles

In North Carolina, ignition interlock devices are mandatory for drivers with specific convictions, such as:

  1. First-time offenders: If convicted of a DWI (Driving While Impaired) with a BAC of 0.15% or higher, drivers are required to install an IID for at least one year upon license restoration3.
  2. Repeat offenders: Drivers with multiple DWI convictions within a seven-year period must install an IID for a minimum of one to four years, depending on the number of previous convictions4.

Please note that these requirements can be modified based on the discretion of the court or the severity of the violation.

Implementation and Requirements

Mandatory vs. Discretionary Installation

In North Carolina, ignition interlock devices are required for certain DUI offenders. The mandatory installation depends on factors such as the blood alcohol concentration level, the presence of a minor in the vehicle, and the number of prior convictions. First-time offenders with a BAC of 0.15% or higher are required to have an ignition interlock installed, while repeat offenders might be subject to installation even if their BAC is below 0.15%. In some cases, the ignition interlock installation is left to the discretion of the court.

Installation Process

After a court order, the offender must have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle by an approved provider. The installation process requires the provider to connect the ignition interlock device to the vehicle’s ignition system. The device works by preventing the vehicle from starting if the driver’s breath sample exceeds the pre-set limit. The cost of the device and installation fees are typically the responsibility of the offender. The installation process varies from provider to provider, and the cost may also vary based on vehicle type and other factors.

Maintenance and Monitoring

Once installed, ignition interlock devices require periodic maintenance and monitoring to ensure proper functionality. Offenders are required to return to the service provider for device maintenance, which usually involves recalibration, inspection, and downloading of data. This data includes any violations or failed tests, and it is reported to the appropriate authorities.

During the monitored period, offenders are subject to random rolling retests to ensure continued compliance with the ignition interlock requirements. If a violation occurs, such as a failed breath test or tampering with the device, it may result in penalties or an extension of the ignition interlock requirement.

Regular maintenance and monitoring are necessary to ensure the effectiveness of ignition interlock devices and to reduce the risk of alcohol-impaired driving and alcohol-related crashes.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Driving without an Interlock Device

In North Carolina, driving without an ignition interlock device (IID) when it is required can result in severe penalties. If caught, offenders may face a Class 1 misdemeanor charge, which could include fines, probation, and potential jail time. Additionally, their driver’s license may be suspended for an additional period. It is crucial for drivers required to have an IID installed to comply with the device’s installation and use to avoid these consequences.

Tampering with the Device

Tampering with an ignition interlock device is a serious offense in North Carolina. This may include attempting to disconnect, disable, or bypass the IID in any manner. If found guilty of tampering, offenders may face additional fines, an extension of the IID requirement period, or even criminal charges. To ensure compliance with the law, it is important for drivers to avoid tampering with the device and to maintain its proper function.

Failed Breath Tests

Failing a breath test with an IID installed can result in various penalties, depending on the specific situation. Some examples of penalties for failed breath tests in North Carolina include:

  • First violation: The device will enter a temporary lockout period, during which the vehicle cannot be started. This lockout usually lasts a few minutes.
  • Subsequent violations: If multiple breath test failures occur within a specific time frame, the device may enter an extended lockout, requiring the offender to bring the vehicle to the IID service provider for a device reset.
  • High blood alcohol concentration (BAC): If the failed breath test registers a significantly high BAC, the IID requirement period may be extended, or additional penalties may be imposed.

For drivers with an ignition interlock device, it is essential to maintain sobriety while operating a vehicle and comply with all requirements of the IID program in North Carolina to avoid these penalties and consequences.

Costs and Financial Assistance

Installation and Leasing Costs

In North Carolina, drivers who are required to equip their vehicles with Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs) must cover the costs associated with installation and lease of the devices. Installation fees can range from $70 to $150, while monthly leasing fees can be around $60 to $801. It is important for drivers to thoroughly research and compare different IID providers to find the best price and device that suits their needs.

Financial Aid Options

For individuals facing financial challenges, there might be options available to help with the costs of IIDs. States may have programs that offer financial aid to cover or partially cover the required expenses2. Although there is no specific financial assistance program for IIDs in North Carolina, drivers may be able to negotiate payment plans with companies that provide the devices3. Moreover, some states collect fees from interlock participants and/or interlock vendors to assist with funding4.

In any case, it is crucial for eligible offenders to educate themselves about available resources and opportunities in order to alleviate the financial burden associated with IIDs.

License Reinstatement Process

Completion of the Interlock Program

In North Carolina, individuals who have had their license suspended or revoked due to a DWI conviction are often required to complete an ignition interlock program before they can reinstate their driving privileges. This process involves installing an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicle, which prevents the engine from starting if the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is above a predetermined limit.

The duration of the interlock program depends on the nature of the offense and previous DWI convictions. Participants are responsible for the installation, maintenance, and monitoring costs of their IID.

Reinstatement Requirements

Once the ignition interlock program has been successfully completed, there are additional requirements for license reinstatement in North Carolina. These may include:

  • Fulfillment of the mandatory suspension or revocation period.
  • Completion of a substance abuse assessment, followed by an appropriate treatment or education program.
  • Payment of all fines, fees, and court costs associated with the DWI conviction.
  • Proof of financial responsibility, usually in the form of an SR-22 insurance policy.

It is essential to comply with all requirements and maintain a clean driving record during the reinstatement process to avoid further delays or complications.

Restricted Driving Privileges

In some cases, individuals with a suspended or revoked license due to a DWI conviction may be granted restricted driving privileges during the license reinstatement process in North Carolina. This allows them to drive for specific purposes, such as employment, education, or treatment programs, under certain conditions and restrictions.

To be eligible for restricted driving privileges, an individual must:

  • Have served a portion of the required suspension or revocation period.
  • Install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle.
  • Complete any required substance abuse assessments and treatment programs.
  • Obtain an SR-22 insurance policy.

It is crucial to adhere to all conditions and restrictions associated with restricted driving privileges to avoid further penalties or revocation of driving privileges.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many violations are allowed with an interlock device in NC?

In North Carolina, ignition interlock devices are designed to help prevent drunk driving. If you fail a breath test initiated by the device, it is considered a violation. North Carolina does not specify an exact number of allowed violations, but accumulating several may result in additional penalties or an extension of the interlock device requirement period.

What is the process for NC DMV interlock hearings?

If you are required to install an ignition interlock device in North Carolina and wish to contest the requirement, you may request a hearing with the NC DMV. To begin the process, you must submit a hearing request form along with the required fee. During the hearing, you will have the opportunity to present your case and provide evidence or reasons as to why you believe the interlock requirement should not apply to you.

Can an ignition interlock exemption form be obtained in NC?

In certain cases, a driver may be eligible for an ignition interlock device exemption in North Carolina. These exemptions are granted on a case-by-case basis and may include medical or financial hardships. To apply, you must submit an exemption form with supporting documentation to the NC DMV for review.

Are there any methods to remove the ignition interlock device early in NC?

In North Carolina, you are generally required to use the ignition interlock device for the entire duration imposed by the court or DMV. However, if you believe you have a justifiable reason for early removal, you may request a hearing with the NC DMV to discuss your circumstances. Keep in mind that early removal is typically granted only in rare and exceptional situations.

What are the associated costs of ignition interlock devices in North Carolina?

The costs of ignition interlock devices in North Carolina vary depending on the provider and the length of time the device is required. Generally, you can expect to pay an installation fee ranging from $75 to $150, as well as a monthly monitoring fee between $70 and $100. Additional costs may include calibration fees and any charges related to device maintenance or violations.

Is an ignition interlock device required for a first DUI conviction in NC?

In North Carolina, an ignition interlock device is typically required for individuals convicted of a DUI with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or higher, or for those with multiple DUI convictions within 7 years. However, the exact requirements and duration of the interlock device depend on your specific case and the discretion of the court or DMV.


  1. Effectiveness of ignition interlocks for preventing alcohol-impaired driving and alcohol-related crashes 2

  2. The effect of ignition interlock programs on drinking-and-driving: a systematic review 2

  3. North Carolina General Statutes 20-17.8 2

  4. Ignition interlock laws: Effects on fatal motor vehicle crashes, 1982–2013 2

Ignition Interlock Compare
Compare items
  • Total (0)