Effective September 1, 2015, an ignition interlock device is required to be installed in any vehicle operated by an individual convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas, in order for them to apply for a post-conviction occupational license. House Bill 2246, which has been signed into law, requires the installation of an ignition interlock device in the automobiles of first-time DWI offenders. Previously, first-time offenders with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) under 0.15 were given the option of installing an ignition interlock device in their car in order to get a restricted license. The change in Texas law requires all DWI offenders to install an ignition interlock device as a prerequisite for getting an occupational license in order to drive during the suspension period.

HB 2246 amends Penal Code Section 49.09 to effect these changes. An ignition interlock device works similarly to a breathalyzer. It is installed in a car and will prevent the car from starting—if the driver has alcohol in their system while trying to operate it—by requiring the driver to provide a breath specimen into the machine that reads for alcohol content in the blood. The ignition interlock devices used in Texas also have the ability to photograph the operator and periodically prompt the operator to provide a specimen of their breath to continue to operate the vehicle.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) advocates have supported this bill in hopes that it will reduce drunk driving accidents, as similar bills have proven to do so in other states.

Representative Jason Villalba clarified the new bill saying, “You do not have to get an ignition interlock. You can say, ‘I don’t want any of these things, government. I don’t want anyone watching what I’m doing. I want to be under a hard suspension.’” The ignition interlock device is now required only for individuals who want to be able to apply for an occupational license during the term of their post-conviction suspension. If an individual does not want the ignition interlock device installed, they will be prohibited from gaining the ability of having a license that allows them to drive while under suspension for the DWI.

It is worth noting that the interlock requirement only applies to those who have been convicted of driving while intoxicated or another intoxication-related offense. It does not apply to license suspensions stemming from the refusal to provide a breath or blood test, or the suspension arising from a person providing a specimen and the specimen showing that person’s BAC was above a .08. (Click here for the Texas statutory warning, and the suspension period imposed by the State of Texas for refusals and specimens over the limit.)

Additionally, this only applies to non-commercial license holders. A person is not eligible to obtain an occupational license in Texas to operate a commercial vehicle.

Click here to review the enrolled version of HB 2246.