Do Ignition Interlock companies have an unfair monopoly after a Seattle DUI arrest?

Over the weekend an interesting article came out from the Seattle Times discussing the role ignition interlock companies play following a DUI arrest here in Washington State. In case you didn’t get a chance to read it you might take a look it’s pretty interesting. What I took away from the article is investing in an ignition interlock company is worth its weight in gold. I’m semi-kidding but it does appear to be a very lucrative business. And like all businesses that make loads of money with little legislative oversight it raises the questions do these IID companies have an unfair monopoly in Washington State.

The article discussed how lawmakers and owners of these IID companies appear to be in lockstep. Meaning the stiffer the DUI penalties become the more money these ignition interlock companies are set to make. I got the sense from the article that some of these companies or at least the owners contribute heavily to campaign funds where the legislator is anti DUI and pro stiffer penalties. Additionally the article paints a picture where the companies themselves play an integral role in helping write the ignition interlock laws that we have here in Washington State following a DUI arrest or DUI conviction. I mean guess who created the idea to have the ignition interlock license following a drivers license suspension.

And as both a DUI Attorney in Seattle, and a resident of the State this all seems very shady and unfair to me. So it got me thinking how much money are these ignition interlock companies making and how. Obviously I have no idea what their profits are but you can get a general idea over how profitable they are by looking no further than the laws here in Washington when it comes to DUI arrests and ignition interlock device requirements.

Remember there are several times an individual faces an ignition interlock requirement following a DUI arrest. After a drivers license suspension at the DOL administrative hearing level (assuming they want to continue driving). After an arraignment following charging of the DUI. Lastly after a conviction for a DUI or an amendment down to reckless driving when there was no suspension credit. So on the surface they are making money just when those conditions come into play. But they are also making boatloads of money on administrative stuff. Things people don’t think about.

First they make it with the installation of the device. Based on what former and current clients have told me this can range anywhere from $50 to $100.

Secondly the monthly cost itself of the device is around $100. So that is quite a substantial sum right there. Depending on whether a defendant has had a prior ignition interlock requirement this time frame can range from 1 to 5 to 10 years.

But lastly there are some hidden costs that always seem to add up that don’t appear to have any oversight or regulation. For example lets say an individual has an IID in their vehicle following a Seattle DUI arrest. They are running late for work. In their haste they rise their mouth with mouthwash and run out to their car. They blow into the device and register a reading and the car won’t start. Well they now have to pay an additional fee to have the device recalibrated. Additionally if this occurred within the last 4 months the device was supposed to be on, then they will be required to have it on for an additional 4 months. That is an extra $400-$500 plus the recalibration fee and removal fee at the end of the period.

Currently there aren’t any laws in place to regulate these type of additional fees and that is why I say there appears to be an unfair monopoly in our State when it comes to IID companies and what and how they charge. It’s eerily similiar to what tow companies are charging to get a vehicle out of impound following a DUI arrest. Like the IID companies they can pretty much charge what they want and nobody is ever going to say anything because it is anti-DUI. Hopefully some kind of regulation occurs with these IID companies when it comes to costs and this unfair monopoly is put down.

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a Seattle DUI Attorney. His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other traffic offenses. He is currently rated by Avvo as one of the best Seattle DUI Attorneys, and was named a Rising Star in Seattle DUI Defense by Super Lawyers Magazine. An honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive.