DC Alcohol Monitoring Devices

In some cases, a DUI arrest or conviction may result in the imposition of an alcohol monitoring device. A DUI lawyer in DC can help explain when these devices can be imposed and the best course of action in such a case.

Ignition Interlock

The most widely used method to prevent drivers from committing a second traffic-alcohol offense is the ignition interlock device. An ignition interlock is basically a portable, bare-bones breathalyzer. The device is a small box (3.5” by 6”), which has a blow tube on one end and a cord on the other. The cord extends underneath the dashboard, near the driver’s right leg. The device is installed directly into the ignition system of the vehicle, but does not cause any permanent damage to the car.

In order to start the vehicle, the driver must blow into the ignition interlock device. If any alcohol is detected in the driver’s breath, the car will not start. After the engine has started, the driver will have to periodically blow into the device. This is to prevent a drunk driver from having a sober friend start the car for him.

If the breath sample is not provided during one of these periodic checks, the device will log the event, warn the driver, and start up the car’s alarm system, until the ignition is turned off or a clean breath sample is provided.

Today, almost all 50 states have laws advocating the use of ignition interlock devices. While the installation of the device is not a standard sentencing provision for DUI convictions in DC, it is possible that the device will become more common in the near future and DC DUI laws do currently permit a judge to impose their use. For more details, or if you have additional, contact a DC DUI lawyer at (202) 618-9898.


Another alcohol detecting device growing in popularity is the SCRAM ankle monitor. The SCRAM device is an ankle monitor similar to a global position unit used by some states and the federal government for people under house arrest. This monitor communicates through a modem connected to a monitoring station which alerts the authorities if alcohol is detected.

The SCRAM device uses the same fuel cell technology used in the breathalyzer. It samples or tests the constant perspiration coming from the skin for traces of alcohol. However, there are several problems with fuel cell devices. At least one study has shown that these types of transdermal alcohol measuring devices do not meet the basic scientific evidence requirements required to be admitted in court.

Although DC courts do not usually require the use of ignition interlock or SCRAM systems, both methods are increasing in popularity and could soon be more widely implemented in the District of Columbia.

Therefore, it is important to have a basic understanding of how these new technologies operate and how they could affect one’s life after a being convicted of driving under the influence.