By Jona Villaneauva, GTC Lawyers
The interlock device is an electronic system installed in a vehicle, the driver of which has had an interlock condition imposed on their driver’s licence by the court. This device can be fitted in a motor vehicle, motorcycle or truck. The interlock device requires the driver to pass a breath test before the engine will operate.
The type of offence and when the offence occurred, will impact on whether the interlock condition is mandatory or discretionary on a driver’s licence. Further, it will impact on the minimum period that the device must be installed for. For example, if an accused was charged with a second drink-driving offence for a blood alcohol reading below 0.15 after 11 October 2017, the interlock condition is mandatory for six months. The Magistrate has the discretion to impose an additional period for the interlock condition on a driver’s licence. For example, If the accused committed an offence under the influence of alcohol or both alcohol and a drug on or after 30 September 2013, the Magistrate has the discretion to impose the interlock condition on the accused’s driver’s licence. These penalties will also apply if the offending was in another State.
Compliance with the Interlock Conditions
The interlock device requirement applies once the Victorian driver licence is obtained after the cancellation period. There will be a condition placed on your driver’s licence which requires you to only drive vehicles which have an interlock device installed.
For example, if you work as a mechanic and are required to ‘test drive’ the vehicles, you must have another employee drive that vehicle. It is not an excuse that it was a requirement of your employment, that you test drive vehicles and were driving at the time.
The driver is responsible for the installation, leasing, servicing and removal of the interlock.
Some interlock devices will operate if the BAC level is below 0.02. However, it is a condition that the driver records a BAC level of zero as this will be recorded in the assessment report. Therefore, even if the vehicle’s engine operates you may still be charged with an offence for breaching a condition of the interlock program. We strongly advise if the vehicle’s engine operates at 0.02, to stop the engine and have another valid driver licence holder operate the vehicle. Alternatively, the driver can wait to operate the vehicle until the driver records a zero BAC level.
The interlock device must be installed by an approved supplier. Therefore, if the interlock condition was imposed by the court, you are required to have another valid licence holder to drive your vehicle to the supplier for the device to be installed.
The requirements of holding a driver’s licence with the interlock conditions imposed include but are not limited to the following:
- You must drive the vehicle installed with the interlock device at least twice per month.
- For example, if you were sentenced to have an interlock device installed for six months you must drive the vehicle at least twice per month (twelve times in total). It is not a defence or excuse for six months to lapse and then you recommenced driving. It is a requirement that you record results by blowing into interlock device installed in your vehicle.
- If you do not drive at all for the six months, the six months will recommence again. For example, if you installed the device and then went on holidays for six months, the six months will commence once you recommence driving consistently.
- You must not tamper with the device. This includes instructing another passenger to blow into the device as this is an offence.
- For the interlock device to be removed, you must have at least 5 months of recordings free of alcohol. This must be all of your most recent months of driving.
- For example, if you were sentenced to have an interlock device installed for 12 months, the records from the last five months must hold no readings of alcohol in the breath.
The rules are required to be complied with prior to the interlock condition on your licence being removed.
Management of the Interlock Device
Prior to 1 October 2014, the interlock system was reviewed and managed by VicRoads. If the interlock device is VicRoads managed, the interlock condition will remain until the interlock period ends and VicRoads has assessed the report to confirm that there are no concerns of the driver drink driving in the future.
Since 1 October 2014, the interlock laws are now managed by the Court. The interlock condition will remain in place until the court removes the condition from your licence. This requires appearing in court to obtain an Alcohol Interlock Condition Removal Order (ICRO).
The penalties for driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs are increasing and there were comments made in the media, that an interlock may be required to be installed in a vehicle if a driver blows a BAC level of 0.07. The legislation has not been changed as of date, however, it is likely that the Victorian Parliament will pass the Bill.
Since 30 January 2015, the interlock device has been fitted with a camera which is installed in motor vehicles. The camera will capture the image of whomever is blowing the device at the time of driving the vehicle, and at random times while the engine is on. The images may be reviewed by the Magistrate in the report to determine if the interlock condition should be removed.
Removal of the Interlock Condition
The removal of the interlock condition is dependent upon whether the driver is required to obtain a Licence Eligibility Order from the court. If the Order is not required, the driver may go directly to VicRoads to have the licence restored.
If the court imposed the interlock condition, the driver needs to apply for the ICRO and attend the listed court date. The application can be made prior to the minimum period of time expires, however, the matter will not be heard until the period ended. An assessment report after the interlock period ended must be obtained through the interlock supplier. This will be reviewed by the Magistrate to ensure compliance with the requirements.
It is imperative that the driver ensure that they comply with the conditions on the driver’s licence. It will only be once the condition is removed from the driver’s licence, that the driver can recommence driving a vehicle without an interlock. At this stage, the driver can arrange for the interlock device to be removed by the supplier.
Should you have any queries regarding the interlock condition on your licence, or whether the outcome of your offence may attract a mandatory period of an interlock condition on your licence, contact one of our lawyers.