Tennessee legislators are considering a bill that would prohibit certain drivers – those with a restricted license as a result of a DUI involving alcohol – from operating a vehicle unless it’s equipped with a functioning ignition interlock device.

The ignition interlock device would prevent the vehicle from starting if the driver’s breath registers a blood alcohol content level above .08.

The legislation also would require that newly installed ignition interlock devices include technology capable of taking a photo identifying the person providing the breath sample; recording the date, time and test result along with the photo of the person providing the test sample; and storing such information on the device so it can be transferred remotely.

The bill would lift geographic restrictions – such as driving to and from work only -- now routinely imposed on drivers with a restricted license.

It’s common for DUI violators to apply for a restricted license after their driver’s license has been suspended. Trial judges in Tennessee can order a restricted license for someone, as long as that driver meets various criteria:

  • The DUI conviction in question occurred on or after July 1, 2000.
  • The driver has no prior conviction for vehicular assault, vehicular homicide due to intoxication, or aggravated vehicular homicide in Tennessee or a similar offense in another state
  • The driver has no prior conviction for DUI or driving while impaired within 10 years of the new violation in Tennessee or a similar offense in another state.

If the bill passes, there would be instances where a driver with such a restricted license could still drive an employer’s vehicle that’s not equipped with an ignition interlock device. But a court would have to expressly permit such employee operation during the course of work, and the employer would have to be notified of the driving restriction. Proof of this notification would have to be carried in the vehicle and provided to the court and to the driver’s probation officer or supervisor.