New regulations have been promulgated to allow all drivers to opt-in to the ignition interlock program if they register a 0.08 blood alcohol (BAC) level or higher. They can opt into the program and keep their license without having an administrative hearing. The new regulations also bring Maryland into compliance with ignition interlock device standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In Maryland, drivers with a BAC of .08 or higher are charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and those with a BAC of .04 are charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).
Participants in this program are required to have an alcohol breath-analyzed ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle's ignition system. The driver must blow into the device and if his or her breath alcohol level exceeds the accepted level set on the device, the vehicle will not start.
The determinations of whether a driver is eligible for or must participate in the program and for how long are usually made by one of the following entities:
In addition, the MVA's Administrative Adjudication Division (AAD) may offer or require a driver to participate if he or she has accumulated sufficient "points," is a "repeat offender," violates a previously imposed alcohol-related driving restriction, or has received a order of suspension for an alcohol test failure or refusal.
Participants in the ignition interlock program are responsible for all costs associated with program participation. This includes the installation and monthly maintenance costs of the ignition interlock device and the cost for obtaining a restricted driver's license. You should also be aware that the time period specified by the referring entity could be extended due to a violation of program rules or other driving-related events.
What should I do if I decide or am required to participate in the ignition interlock program?
Your first step should be to carefully review all of the materials that you received. Then contact one of the MVA authorized Ignition Interlock Service Providers and schedule an appointment to have the ignition interlock device installed on the vehicle that you will be driving. When the device is installed, the provider will show you how to use it, advise you about the monthly maintenance and reporting requirements, and provide you with written proof that the device was installed.
Next, take the written proof of installation and your current driver's license to any MVA branch office and request a "restricted" driver's license. The license will look like your old one but it will have the code letter "J" under the heading "RESTR".
What happens next?
- You may elect to participate in the ignition interlock program for 1 year. Your election to participate and instructions can be found on the reverse side of your copy of the "order of suspension."
- You may request a hearing within 30 days of your stop, to show why your Maryland driver’s license or privilege should not be suspended, to prove that the case does not meet legal requirements, or to have the suspension modified. If a hearing is requested, it must be submitted to the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) and include a hearing fee. The OAH will notify you of the hearing date and location. If applicable, your attorney will also receive hearing information from the OAH. If a hearing is requested within 10 days of the "order of suspension" date and your Maryland driver's license was surrendered, your license will not be suspended before you appear for the scheduled hearing. A hearing request postmarked after the 30th day of the "order of suspension" date will be denied. If you refused the test or your test resulted in a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or higher, the only modification permitted must include 1 year in the ignition interlock program.
- If you do not participate in the ignition interlock program or request a hearing by the 46th day after the “order of suspension” which is specified on the officer’s certification and order of suspension, your Maryland driving privilege (driver’s license) will be suspended and/or disqualified.
- Once you have the ignition interlock device installed and you obtain the restricted license, you will be expected to return every 30 days to the ignition interlock service provider who installed the device. The provider will collect information captured by the device and forward that information to the MVA. The provider also will make sure the device is operating correctly.
What information is reported to the MVA by the Ignition Interlock Service Provider?
Typically, the provider prepares a report for the MVA each month that includes information about:
- You the driver, your vehicle and other program information;
- Any instances where you had a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC);
- Any instances where you tried to start the vehicle without taking the test;
- Any instances where you failed the rolling retest or refused to take it;
- Any bypass of the device, which is if you tampered with or disconnected the device;
- The number of times your vehicle was started and stopped;
- The distance traveled by your vehicle.
What should I do if?
I think the device is defective, because it keeps failing me.
A defective device will not give failed readings. A failed reading only comes from something on the person’s breath.
The device failed me because I brushed my teeth, used mouthwash, splashed on cologne or took cough medicine.
The interlock device is very sensitive, and a number of every day items may give you a failed reading. Your ignition interlock vendor should have explained this to you at the time of installation of the device. To avoid this problem, always rinse your mouth out with water before blowing into the device. If you have a breath alcohol failure, rinse your mouth out, take a few deep breaths, and wait approximately 4 - 5 minutes before taking another test.
If the second test indicates a breath alcohol content of .025 or less, a violation is not counted. Unfortunately, if you do not take another test within 5 minutes, or if the breath alcohol content of the second test is .026 or higher, it will count as an infraction.
The service light comes on before my next scheduled appointment.
The service light will come on if you have too many high breath alcohol content (BAC) tests within a 30-day period. It will also come on if you are not blowing into the device correctly, or if the device is tampered with or removed. You will have 5 – 7 days to have the device serviced or it will permanently lockout and the vehicle will have to be towed.
The device keeps on aborting
Many people do not understand the difference between an abort and a failure. An abort usually occurs when an individual does not use a correct breath code or moisture gets into the device. This can happen if you do not use the mouthpiece, or if you spill liquid on the device. If it aborts too many times it may eventually cause internal damage and the device will malfunction.
I shut the vehicle off and the horn went off
This will happen if the device asks for a running retest and you turn off the vehicle. If the device asks for a retest, you must take the test. If you turn off the vehicle without giving the test the device will record a rolling retest refusal and the horn will go off.
I received a letter stating I had a low starts violation. What does this mean?
This type of letter means that your device recorded less than 50 starts within your 30 day monitoring period. In order for us to know that you are maintaining your sobriety, and are only driving an Ignition Interlock installed vehicle, we must be able to see at least 50 starts in a given period. If you were car pooling, taking public transportation, ill and unable to work, or, for any other reason, did not use your car very much during a monitoring period, then send us a letter explaining why you are not using your car, and what other arrangements you have made.
Why has my required time in the ignition interlock program been extended?
Each time you have one or more violations during a monitoring period, you will receive a letter of notification, and your required time in the program will be extended by one month. If there is a fourth monitoring period containing a violation, you will be terminated from the program, and your original suspension or revocation will be imposed.
How can I reach my case manager?
The correspondence you receive from the MVA indicates the name of your case manager. However, due to the volume of cases, your case manager is not always available. The customer support personnel who answers your call can assist you with many of your questions and requests. If he/she cannot help you, a message will be given to your case manager who will contact you within 24 hours.
How long must I participate in the ignition interlock program?
When you receive information about the program, you should be advised of the minimum length of time that you must participate. However, this time period could be extended if you violate any of the program rules or if you have other driving-related problems. Also, it is important to understand that you will not begin receiving credit for participating in the program until you have had the ignition interlock device installed and obtained the restricted driver's license.
Once you have completed your required participation period including any extensions, please bring your vehicle to your ignition interlock service center any time after your completion date for one final download of data. The MVA will receive this data overnight. If there are no violations noted, a successful completion letter will be generated and mailed. You may take the successful completion letter to any MVA branch office to have the restriction removed from your driver's license. Following this, you may have the interlock device removed from your vehicle.
- There are fees associated with the use of an alcohol breath-analyzed ignition interlock device.
- There is a fee for a corrected driver's license that includes a restriction.
- There is a fee for a corrected driver's license on which the restriction has been removed.
What should I do if I have concerns about an interlock provider?
Should you have concerns regarding the service you are receiving from an approved interlock provider, please contact that provider directly and request to speak to a manager or supervisor in their central office. If, after contacting the provider, you are still not satisfied with their response, please email your concerns to the MVA at InterlockEmail@mva.maryland.gov . Please make sure to include your contact information including your name, current interlock provider and a brief description of the issue.
Please note that the email address is to be used only for unresolved issues that are related to the ignition interlock vendors and any improperly functioning devices. Any questions about violations, your time on the program, etc. must be asked of your case manager. The contact information for your case manager is included in all correspondence.
Driver Wellness and Safety (DW&S) Division
6601 Ritchie Highway, NE
Glen Burnie, MD 21062
For telephone questions:
MVA Customer Service Center:
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System: