It’s likely that if you’re reading this, you have received a notice of an ignition interlock violation, are about to lose your license all over again, and have already paid to have a camera-enabled interlock unit installed in his or her vehicle; that became mandatory in June of 2016. One of the ideas behind this new requirement was to cut down on the number of ignition interlock violations that seem to be clogging up the schedule of the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS). Whether the camera units do that or not remains to be seen, but it probably doesn’t make you feel any better at the moment. Putting aside all the diplomatic nicety and legal finery for one moment, and before we dive into any meaningful discussion, let me just agree that this sucks. Almost every one (I’d like to believe every last one) of my interlock violation clients, whatever the underlying basis for their violation, were not drinking; I have no interest in helping someone win a violation case who was. For everything else I could say about this, none of it changes the basic fact that even if you’ve remained genuinely sober, if you’ve been violated, you need to win your license back, and getting all mad about things won’t help. After all the work that you put into getting sober, changing your life and then winning your license back the first time, you probably don’t deserve this, but, as Clint Eastwood’s cowboy character said in “Unforgiven,” the western movie, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”
I’ve had interlock violation cases that have come as a complete surprise to my client, I’ve had plenty where the client first tried, unsuccessfully, to “head off” a violation by calling the interlock company and/or faxing documents to the Secretary of State in Lansing, and just about everything in-between. Obviously, if I’m involved, those efforts didn’t work, although I do make my staff and all of our resources available to my existing clients to try and avoid a violation in the first place. How and why ever it happened, when a person opens that envelope and learns that their license is going to be taken away, especially when they weren’t drinking and have remained sober, a flood of negative emotions rushes to the surface. I understand that, but my job, as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, is to help you move past the emotional stress and win your license back. As the saying goes, “It is what it is,” and there is no way to go back in time and undo things; instead, we need to take the appropriate corrective action under the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
In another ignition interlock violation article I put up about a year ago, I reprinted the “Notice of Proper Ignition Interlock Use” section that is part of every winning license appeal order (although some hearing officers title it a bit differently in their opinions). Key to those instructions is what to do after a missed rolling retest or any positive alcohol reading: Get a PBT (breath) or EtG (urine) test. For anyone reading this article because of a violation, you either did get a test (if doing so was relevant to your kind of violation; it is usually not in “Tamper/Circumvent” cases, for example) or you did not. If you should have gotten a test but didn’t, then it’s too late now, so there’s no point crying over spilled milk. We’ll have to work with what we have. In those of my cases where I don’t have a confirming negative test, I win interlock violation cases by using context, and how the alleged violation doesn’t fit within the context of my client’s behavior, case, life and/or recovery. In a very real way, this requires learning all of the relevant facts, understanding the procedure, knowing about the hearing officer, and also just having a real “intuition” about how to put a successful appeal together.