My Experience With This Court-Mandated In-Car Breathalyzer Following a DWI Chargeby Kelly R. Smith
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We’ve probably all been there–out with friends or at a party, or even an extended dinner and had one too many adult beverages. We don’t necessarily feel too woozy, but the numbers on the police officer’s breathalyzer or the blood test might put us over the legal limit, which varies from state to state.
This is what happened to me. Going on advice that I have heard many times over, I politely declined the breathalyzer. I was taken to jail and quickly made bail. But before that happened they took my blood. This was the beginning of my circuitous journey through the Galveston County legal maze. It was going to be a journey of five years. The situation turned out to be no trivial matter.
You Will Probably be Ordered to Install an Ignition Interlock Device
Again, this varies from state to state. Usually, the condition of keeping your driving privileges is installing an ignition interlock breathalyzer in your vehicle. My orders were to get one that also has a dash camera pointed right at my face and a Car Tunes, is close by, and so, convenient for my busy life. I didn’t want to have to drive 30 miles every month for another brand of device. As it turned out, I made a great choice with Car Tunes. They are the best in the area for car stereos, lighting, gadgets, and window tinting. My decision with Intoxalock was a catastrophe, in retrospect. Hopefully, my relating this information will save some readers a headache. Forewarned is forearmed, as I am wont to say.
Things Quickly Went South With Intoxalock
Well, of course they were professional when they wanted to get my business! Of course they were prompt sending the device to Car Tunes for installation (installation is not a DIY project by law). That’s when the honeymoon came to a screeching halt.
The first issue came when I went for my first device calibration. It didn’t work. The Car Tunes guy said all I could do was call Intoxalock “support” for a solution. So I called. I was put on ignore (hold) for 45 minutes. My cell phone battery was starting to go into shock but the saint of the iPhone heard my plea and cut me some well-deserved slack..
- Her: “How can I help you?”
- Me: “Well, I’m here at the shop for my first calibration and your machine won’t do it.”
- Her: “Let me see… OK, it says here that it’s because you haven’t paid your first monthly bill.”
- Me: “I’m not due for one yet. Besides, my bank account is on monthly billing. You extract the money at your leisure. Why doesn’t your system figure this out?”
- Her, voice dripping with condescension: “Well, that’s not really the issue. But what I will do, this one time, as a favor, is let the calibration go forward and not charge you the regular additional fee for this service.”
- Me, astonished: “Well gee, thanks.”
The Battery Issue They Don’t Tell You About
I’m not sure how it all connects to your car; that’s all some kind of secret to discourage tampering. But what they are not really transparent about is that the device puts a constant drain on the vehicle battery. Now, I don’t drive much. I work from home, the grocery store is a 5-minute walk away, and I usually go for my morning training runs right out the front door.
So, imagine my surprise when I got ready one afternoon to go for device calibration and my truck battery is dead. I put it on the charger but it never recovered enough from absolute nada to get me to the shop before closing time. Through the Intoxalock app I explained the situation and asked for a one-day extension but customer “service” never responded, even to refuse my humble request. They just didn’t care about the guy who is paying their bills. The result? My vehicle had a “lockout” and had to be towed to Car Tunes the next day for calibration. Ka-ching! I’m not the only one; there are more battery stories on the BBB website regarding Intoxalock.
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Having the Device Removed and Closing My Account
The device can only be removed from your vehicle when that action is legally approved. In my case, a Galveston County judge decreed it when she closed my case. She gave me paperwork to that effect which is what I was to submit to Intoxalock so they could schedule a removal appointment. Fair enough.
I was so excited. I was finally going to get back to my life! After 5 years I had paid my debt to society. The judge said so. But, hold on there, pardner; Intoxalock wasn’t ready to let go of a cash cow quite yet.
I submitted my removal request and my court document through the Intoxalock phone app. No response. I submitted it a few times to the email address stated on their website for that very purpose, again attaching the judge’s signed-off document. Again, no response. Hmm, I sense a pattern emerging here. So I call them. The customer “support” lady asked if I had received an automated reply from my emails? Nope. Well, she told me, you’ll have to find another way. “What way,” I asked? She said, “Don’t know, maybe fax?” So I’m thinking, this customer service person has no idea about how to solve this simple problem? She’s not going to take the initiative and say, “Sorry, you have been a good paying customer for a year, let me find a solution.”
I tried one more email with the attached judge’s orders. Nada, zip, zilch response. So, sitting here in my home office late one evening I thought, let’s bring in the BBB. I can’t say that I was surprised by what I saw on the BBB site regarding Intoxalock. They enjoy a 1 out of 5-star rating (you can’t give zero stars).
So. I open a case against Intoxalock with the BBB. Within about 15 hours I received an email from Intoxalock stating that they had received my request for device removal. Then, this was their response to the BBB (who had forwarded my complaint to them):
RECEIVE BUSINESS RESPONSE: A member of Intoxalock management team has reviewed Ms. Smith’s account. Intoxalock does regret any poor experience she has had and apologize for any undue frustration she may have incurred. As of 6-28-21 Intoxalock state compliance has noted the authorization to remove the interlock device. Ms. Smith has also scheduled the removal for 6-29-21. Once the removal is complete Ms. Smith’s account will be closed out. Intoxalock has attached Ms. Smith’s final billing showing a zero balance due If Ms. Smith would like to discuss this she can reach a member of Intoxalock management team at 515-204-2573 or 525-461-2248.
The BBB now asks me if I accept or decline the accused’s response. Here is my response:
CONSUMER SATISFIED : (The consumer indicated he/she ACCEPTED the response from the business.) I accept the response with the following caveats. They tell me their system is supposed to generate an automatic “we received your email” email to me after I submitted my request attached with the Judge’s decree. This did NOT happen for numerous emails and phone calls over the course of approximately 2 weeks. Miraculously, I got one less than 24 hours after I filed a complaint with the BBB! Then, later that day, they sent me another email saying they couldn’t ship me a unit because I had not signed a lease. What? All my emails and phone calls referenced REMOVAL, not ACQUIRING. Obviously, their system is broken on so many levels. The unit was removed yesterday but I won’t trust that my account will be closed until I see it, for obvious reasons. I’ll be watching my bank account closely; they have been either devious or incompetent on all other actions.
That’s the long and short of my experience with the Intoxalock Ignition Interlock device and the company. There should be a recognition of so many shady and possibly illegal things going on here. In my case it wasn’t just shoddy customer relations; it was how they pretended to ignore my communications (and potentially keep billing me) until the BBB held their feet to the fire. If you find yourself to be court-mandated to install one of these devices, I urge you to do your research. Look at all the cases on file with the BBB. As I said, only 1 out of 5 stars.
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