Ignition Interlock Device Crimes: NY VTL 1198

Is it a crime in New York to tamper with an ignition interlock device placed in or on your vehicle as a result of a DUI plea? For that matter, what are the criminal offenses for manipulating such a device installed in your car after a DWI conviction? Unfortunately, if you are standing with your DUI lawyer in court awaiting your arraignment, then you likely don’t need to ask these questions. For those who have not been arrested or accused of violating the Vehicle and Traffic Law, the answer to the former is an unequivocal “yes.” The response to the latter is that there are many misdemeanor offenses and they are codified in VTL 1198 as Circumvention of an Interlock Device, Operating without an Interlock Device, and Bypassing an Interlock Device.

The assortment of crimes involving the tinkering with, damaging or removal of this equipment can be very severe even if not felonious. Make no mistake. Whether the police arrest you for trying remove it or have someone who is sober – a friend or child – blow into it, there is a strong likelihood law enforcement will find out. If the police do not hear your horn honking or see your lights flashing, when the information from your device is downloaded, the risk of prosecution is no less real.

Circumvention of an Interlock Device The Crimes and Their Elements

VTL 1198(9)(a) If you ask anyone at all – sister, father, drinking buddy – to substitute your breath by blowing into a device on your behalf, you have committed a crime by your mere solicitation. Remember, the inventors of the ignition interlock device were not naïve and have been through countless “rodeos.” While the car may start with another person's breath, at points during its operation you will be required to breathe into it again even while the vehicle is running.

VTL 1198(9)(b): The companion statute to VTL 1198(9)(a), if you are the individual who blows into an ignition interlock for a driver who has been restricted by the machine, you are violating the law. There is no justification or legal defense even if you may have a factual or evidentiary based defense. That is, whether you are being compensated for your blow or you believe you are just trying to help this other person out, when your objective is to aid that person to avoid detection and compliance, you can find yourself criminally culpable.

VTL 1198(9)(c): Tampering of an ignition interlock in any way as an attempt to circumvent the equipment runs afoul of the code.

Penalty and Punishment

A conviction for this offense is a class “A” misdemeanor and carries a sentence of up to one year in jail.

Hypothetical and Example

You threw a couple back with some work pals. You cajole a buddy of yours who hadn’t had a drop of alcohol to blow so you can start the car. He agrees. As you are driving along, you are required to provide another breath sample and instead of doing so, you attempt to disrupt the operation of the device. Assuming you are caught and arrested, you would face subsection (a) and (c) while your friend who blew would face subsection (b).

Operating Without an Interlock Device

VTL 1198(9)(d): If you, the person convicted of a drunk driving offense, are required to maintain this equipment in your vehicle, operate any vehicle (yours or another person's) that does not contain this device, you will be charged with a crime.

Hypothetical and Example

The statute speaks for itself. If you fail to install the machinery on your own SUV or, for example, you rent a car – whether in New York or in any other state – without using the device, then you violate the law.

Penalty and Punishment

A conviction for this crime is a class “A” misdemeanor and a judge can incarcerate you for as long as one year. Further, VTL 1198(4)(a) permits the court to resentence you for your failure to comply with the proper use of the device.

Your Case, Your Defense, Your Future

While there may be defenses based in law and others may be based on the facts, you may also find yourself taking the approach of mitigation and minimization. Obviously, if there is a means to secure a dismissal or reduced plea, those outcomes will be sought first. No matter your approach, however, arming yourself with the best attorney familiar with New York DUI offenses is essential. The alternative is to leave yourself vulnerable to a new or further criminal record, and both the direct and collateral consequences of a conviction.

When experience, knowledge and advocacy is your best defense, the former DWI prosecutors and defense team at Crotty Saland PC is ready to protect you today and tomorrow, long after our case is closed.

Call the New York City & Hudson Valley DWI & DUI attorneys at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today

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