Today’s post comes to us from Steve Oberman of the Tennessee-based Oberman & Rice firm. This post was first published in the DUI News Blog. Now it’s time to learn about the risks of driving after taking legally prescribed medication.


I receive many calls from persons arrested for DUI due to the fact they’d been pulled after taking prescription drugs. These persons want to use as their defense that they were taking the dosage of medication prescribed by their physician. Today, prescription and over-the-counter drugs are a normal part of daily life for many people—many of whom are surprised to hear that taking a legally prescribed medication can still lead to a DUI conviction.

Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs may impair a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely, especially if used in combination with other medications or alcohol. Accordingly, people must be particularly careful when driving after consuming their medication.

If a person is arrested for DUI while taking only legally prescribed medications, the legality of the prescription is not relevant to the DUI charge.  How or why the defendant became impaired is not an element of the crime of DUI; the focus is on the fact that one was simply driving or in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant or combination of intoxicants. The reason for impairment is irrelevant. The elements of the crime and the penalties for driving under the influence of legally prescribed drugs are the exact same as those for driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal intoxicants. A legal prescription is certainly relevant to prevent separate charges for the mere possession of drugs, but it is not a defense to the act of driving while impaired.

Moreover, a defense of being involuntarily intoxicated may not be available to a person who is impaired from legally prescribed medication. Being unaware of the side effects is not the same thing as being involuntarily intoxicated. Involuntary intoxication applies when a person unknowingly consumes an intoxicant. Similarly, if the prescription was obtained legally from a doctor and through a pharmacy, then the required, extensive warnings about possible side effects may negatively affect a claim of ignorance or mistake.

Nonetheless, defenses to driving under the influence of prescribed medication may exist. Not only may there be constitutional defenses, but also defenses relating to the type and dosage of medication. Always be careful about getting behind the wheel after you’ve taken prescription medication. If you do get hit with a DUI charge due to prescription medication make sure you find a lawyer who’s undergone extensive Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) training. Be smart; be prepared.

In our last post, we laid out one of several costs that come along with having an ignition interlock installed in your vehicle other than the monthly fee. You see, in North Carolina, all ignition interlock providers charge about the same per month, right around $75. But there are several other costs that could arise in your time with an ignition interlock.


So we’re laying out these additional costs to help educate those looking for an ignition interlock provider. You deserve to have the best provider for you in terms of cost effectiveness and customer service. Don’t get lulled into choosing just any provider.


Associated Ignition Interlock Costs

Mechanic Override Costs: Let’s say that a few months after  receiving your ignition interlock device, your radiator springs a leak or your engine begins acting up. You wind up having to drop your vehicle off with a mechanic. In order for the mechanic to do work on your vehicle, he’s going to need a way to start the car and test things out without having to take a breath test each time. In order to do this, he’ll need an override code. This code is issued to mechanics by the ignition interlock provider. But it’s not free. The cost for this service varies among providers.


Service Calls: Service calls refer to on-site calls. If you’re having an issue with your device, and you’re unable to start your vehicle, some providers offer an on-site call service. They will send out a team of technicians to come assist you in your specific device issue. They’ll help get you back on the road. But not all providers offer this service.


Towing Service: If your provider does not offer on-site service calls, you’ll have to call a towing service to tow your vehicle to the nearest service center in the event you’re unable to start your vehicle due to an issue with your device.

By Bryce Little
Market Coordinator

North Carolina’s Holiday “Booze It & Lose It” campaign netted more than 3,000 DWI arrests. As North Carolina citizens were partying over the holidays, law enforcement officers were out in full force from December 13, 2013  through January 5, 2014, stopping vehicles and using breathalyzer test checkpoints to monitor the sobriety of  those behind the wheel. This effort resulted in an arrest total of 3,164 DWI drivers across North Carolina.

The holiday “Booze It & Lose It” campaign was designed to stop drinking and driving during the holiday season, which is always a dangerous period of time in terms of drinking and driving offenders. Late December and early January, historically, have been the most prevalent time for drinking and driving accidents and fatalities.

But drinking and driving wasn’t the only violation committed during this period. 6,285 seat belt and 1,086 child passenger violation tickets were also issued, along with speeding and drug charges.

The top five counties for DWI arrests during the Holiday “Booze it & Lose it “ campaign:

1. Wake County: Issued 329 DWI arrests

2. Mecklenburg County: Issued 261 DWI arrests

3. Guilford County: Issued 197 DWI arrests

4. Forsyth County: Issued 157 DWI arrests

5. Cumberland County: Issued 103 DWI arrests

The “Booze it & Lose it” campaign may have concluded, but the state’s law enforcement will remain as dedicated as ever in keeping North Carolina’s roads safe by reducing drinking and driving accidents and fatalities. So make a pledge to remain both accident and ticket free throughout 2014.

Whether it’s appointing a designated driver , calling a taxi or calling Safe Ride Home, a service in which someone comes to pick you up and take you home in your own car, there is always an alternative to drinking and driving.

In North Carolina, if you’re pulled over while drinking and driving, and you blow a BAC level of .15 or higher, you’re required to install an ignition interlock device in your car. And once it’s in your car, you aren’t permitted to operate the vehicle if you have any alcohol, even trace amounts, in your system. Here’s the way it works:

If  the driver blew a BAC level of 0.15 or greater when convicted of the DUI, once his device is installed, he must blow a BAC level below 0.04 in order to start his car. If he blows a BAC level of .01 or higher, he will be given a warning.

Drivers who blow a BAC level of 0.15 or greater when convicted of the DUI AND fall under one of the following categories face a much stiffer penalty.

  1. Operating a commercial motor vehicle
  2. Driving under the influence when younger than 21 years of age
  3. Operating a vehicle while under a vehicular homicide restriction
  4. Having a record of prior conviction of an offense involving impaired driving within seven years (regardless of BAC level)

These drivers are unable to start their cars if they blow a BAC level of  0.009 or greater. If they blow a BAC level of .004 or higher, they will receive a warning.

The NCDMV requires all fails to be reported to them. It also requires the client responsible for the fail to stop by his respective service center within five days. In addition, the NCDMV may take licensing action for any fail that it deems necessary.

Keep in mind that alcoholic beverages may take several hours after consumption to dissipate from the body. Also, don’t forget that alcohol occurs naturally in a person’s body and can be found in substances other than beer, wine and liquor. Many foods and medicines contain alcohol, including mouth wash, certain coffee drinks and inhalers.

Monitech’s contact center representatives have used their combined 50+ years of experience to turn their contact center into one of excellence. What sets them apart?

  • Sales, support and field teams work as one unit to produce a seamless customer experience.
  • The contact center, located at Monitech headquarters in N.C., is local, which allows contact center reps to be privy to statewide affairs as well as provide answers in a timely fashion.
  • By cross training contact center team members with field technicians, Monitech has cut down on customer issues and made hand-offs between the two seamless. Monitech holds regular meetings between field and contact center staff with the purpose of identifying areas for improvement and creating plans to improve these areas.
  • Performance metrics are based on quality of delivery, not on quotas or other arbitrary measures. Our ultimate goal is to help the customer to the extent we are able to. For this reason, Monitech does not hold contact center staff to strict call times that would force them to rush phone calls. While this may extend wait times a little bit, we feel doing this gives the customer a better experience overall.

Feel free to call the contact center at any time: 800.521.4246


If you missed Parts 1 and 2 of this series, my name is Bryce Little and I’m the Market Coordinator for Monitech. My job is to educate attorneys and alcohol assessment counselors on ignition interlocks. Over the course of this past year, I’ve received hundreds of questions about ignition interlocks. Now, it would’ve been hard to post every one of them here (See our FAQs page), so I’ve trimmed the list down to the top ten, and I’m answering them all in this three part series. This post is the final in of the series and addresses questions 3-1.

3. Can program participants get their interlock serviced at any North Carolina location?

Yes. Monitech ignition interlock devices can be serviced at any of our 30 service center locations. For up-to-date service center hours and locations, check out our store locator.

2. Can an ignition interlock be installed on older vehicles?

Under most circumstances, an ignition interlock can be installed on any vehicle that operates with a 12-volt electrical system. However, since the ignition interlock monitors a number of vehicle functions, especially the alternator and charging system, the electrical system must meet certain minimal standards. On the day of installation, if the Monitech technician finds that a vehicle does not meet the minimal standards, the difficulties will be pointed out and a second appointment date will be established at no extra charge.

1. What if a client’s car is registered under someone else’s name?  

If the vehicle is not registered in the client’s name, it is necessary to provide a notarized Permission Letter from the owner. This letter is available for printout on our website under the Resources section. If the owner of the vehicle will be present at the time of installation, he or she may sign the permission letter at that time (without the need for notarization).

I hope you found these answers helpful. If you have any other questions regarding ignition interlocks, feel free to contact me.

Phone: (919) 801-6332

Twitter: @monitechtravlr

If you missed Part 1 of this series, my name is Bryce Little and I’m the Market Coordinator for Monitech. My job is to educate attorneys and alcohol assessment counselors on ignition interlocks. Over the course of this past year, I’ve received hundreds of questions about ignition interlocks. Now, it would’ve been hard to post every one of them here (See our FAQs page), so I’ve trimmed the list down to the top ten, and I’m answering them all in this three part series. This post deals with questions 7-4.


7. Can the ignition interlock shut my vehicle off while driving?

No. The way interlocks work is by interrupting the ignition signal to the starter motor before startup and, therefore, cannot turn the vehicle off — only prevent the vehicle from starting. If a random running retest is failed, the ignition interlock will sound an alarm and allow the driver time to find a safe place to pull over and turn the vehicle off.

6. Do I need an appointment to go to the service center?

Yes.  Local Monitech technicians are prohibited from accepting walk-ins or scheduling appointments directly from the service center. One must go through the Monitech Contact Center in order to schedule an appointment with a service center. The Contact Center can be reached at 1-800-521-4246.

5. Does the interlock device drain my battery?

The ignition interlock monitors the vehicle, even when it’s turned off, so it does require a small amount of battery power for this continuous activity. Therefore, Monitech recommends avoiding extended periods of nonuse, which may cause excessive battery drain.

4. Can I disable the ignition interlock myself to let someone else use the vehicle?

No. Tampering with or any attempted circumvention of the ignition interlock device is a violation of the North Carolina Ignition Interlock Program and may result in the loss of your driving privileges. The interlock participant may designate other individuals to operate the interlock vehicle, but in so doing, the interlock participant accepts any and all responsibility for interlock damages and/or program violations. For this reason, the interlock participant should utilize extreme caution in allowing someone else to operate the interlock vehicle.

TIRF Ignition Interlock Statistics

In early 1989, the founder of Monitech approached the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV) about using the emerging technology of a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID) as a highway safety measure. The BAIID would allow drivers who had had multiple DWI convictions and their licenses revoked to legally drive again by requiring them to provide an alcohol breath sample before starting their cars. This would prove to the NCDMV that these drivers had changed their behavior; it would further provide the NCDMV with the assurance that repeat DWI offenders were no longer endangering the motoring public.

At that time, and still to this day, the NCDMV had a “conditionally restored” program for repeat DWI offenders: N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-19(d) & (e).  Repeat DWI offenders could obtain a conditionally restored drivers license if (1) their license had been revoked for at least three years and (2) they could produce three witnesses who swore under oath that the offender had not used alcohol in at least one year. However, until the BAIID was developed, the NCDMV had no way of ensuring that the conditionally restored driver was actually abstaining from the use of alcohol before or during vehicle use.

The Pilot Program

So the NCDMV acted upon Monitech’s recommendation and founded the BAIID program under the following pretenses: 1) they would control the rules and fee structure of the program and 2) Monitech would incur all investment costs in personnel, services centers and equipment. The pilot program, which started with restrictions to 100 participants’ conditionally restored driver’s licenses, required Monitech’s device to record a breath alcohol content (BAC) of 0.02 as a WARN, a 0.04 -0.07 as a FAIL and a 0.08+ as a HIGH FAIL. These set points assured the NCDMV that N.C. roads would be safer.

Monitech was the first company in the nation to develop and deploy a BAIID using fuel cell technology to more accurately measure breath alcohol (the same technology used in most law enforcement breath testing instruments). It also increased its number of service centers statewide for customer convenience. While many states were hosting multiple BAIID providers, the NCDMV continued its partnership exclusively with Monitech for years. Though requests for proposals were put out for bid several times, Monitech was the only provider willing to invest in the technology and facilities necessary to provide statewide coverage.

For 22 years, Monitech served North Carolinians as their sole provider. In 2011, the NCDMV opened the state to multiple vendors and now Monitech shares friendly competition with Smart Start and Alcolock.

What’s an ignition interlock device?

  • A small breath analyzer that requires a clean, alcohol-free breath sample by a driver in order to start a vehicle.

What’s the purpose of the device?

  • Ignition interlocks are used across the nation as an alternative to license revocation.
  • When the law takes away individuals’ licenses for a substantial period of time, life as they know it becomes difficult (i.e. supporting a job, family and normal lifestyle).
  • Ignition interlocks are an alternative to revocation. They provide those convicted of a DWI with the opportunity to prove they can be responsible drivers again.
  • That’s why Monitech calls it the ‘road to redemption.’

Which drivers are required to have an ignition interlock device by N.C. law?

  • Those convicted of a DWI type offense with a 0.15 or higher BAC
  • Those with a prior DWI conviction or record required to drive an ignition interlock-equipped vehicle

How long are individuals required to have an ignition interlock device?

  • Terms range from one to 10 years depending on the number of convictions.
  • Driving a vehicle without the required device is illegal and will result in a revocation of all rights to drive for at least one additional year.

What’s the one thing an ignition interlock device is looking for?

  • Alcohol (also known as ethanol)

What’s required to start a car with an ignition interlock device?

  • A clean, alcohol free breath sample.

What steps are involved in the process?

  • A unique PIN to ensure that only the authorized driver is activating the test
  • A clean, alcohol-free breath sample
  • The driver must blow and hum continuously for eight seconds.
  • After a completed and successful breath test, the driver can start the vehicle.

What happens if the device detects alcohol?

  • If the device records a FAIL, a noncompliance report is sent to the DMV.

Can anything other than alcohol (ethanol) set off the device?

  • A FAIL can occur due to mouth contaminants.

What are examples of mouth contaminants?

  • Some foods and drinks other than beer, wine and liquor include alcohol type ingredients.

What should you do if your device detects a mouth contaminant?

  • If a driver consumes a mouth contaminant before activating the device, it will result in a WARN or FAIL.
  • The driver should wait five minutes, rinse thoroughly with water and retest.

By that time, any contaminant should have dissipated.

  • A second test will represent your accurate BAC.

What does the Monitech device look like?

How do I get more information about ignition interlock devices?


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