An unfortunate part of my caseload, as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, is handling ignition interlock violations. I have written about the various kinds of violations in some detail, but always from the point of view of the lawyer in my role of representing someone at a hearing before the Michigan Secretary of State Administrative Hearing Section (now the AHS, formerly the DAAD). In this article, I hope to reach out to someone looking for an answer to a question like "What should I do right now?" If your machine has just given a false-positive reading, or you have had something like a start-up failure, a missed rolling retest, car trouble (like a dead battery) or work done on the car, let's quickly look at some steps you can take to immediately make things better.
Start-up failure: If you have a start-up failure, you need to retest right away. Rinse your mouth out with water, wait a few minutes, and then try again. Whatever else, DO NOT just leave your car and go to work or school. I don't care if you have the President of the United States waiting for you, if you cannot get a clean test and start your car, get your butt to the nearest police station and take a PBT (portable breath test). It can cost anywhere from $5 to $15, but if you have not been drinking, this will be the best money you ever spent. That PBT needs to be done right away; a test taken an hour after a failed interlock test is pretty much useless.
DO NOT sit on the phone wasting time with the interlock company; go get that test now. The sad reality is that pretty much all the time you will spend on the phone with the interlock folks will do nothing. I have NEVER seen a violation situation where anything useful came from time spent on the phone with the interlock people, and I've handled more interlock violation cases that you could count. At best, they'll tell you what I just did. They have no magic "fix" they can send down the line, and no way to instantly verify that you haven't been drinking. They are terrible at documenting anything; in any case where I need to prove a person made calls to his or her interlock company, I have the client pull his or her phone bill, although that "proof" is almost never directly important. Even then, all we can prove is that a call was made. Think about it; even if the interlock people took copious notes, all those notes would say is something like "Customer called and claimed he/she wasn't drinking and that unit malfunctioned. Told customer to rinse mouth and retest and/or take breath test at nearest police station." That is of precisely zero value in proving that you didn't drink, while precious time you could spend actually spend getting a breath test that proves your claim that just ticks away.
Positive rolling retest: This should be treated the same way as a start-up failure, to the extent possible. In the real world, people often blow a positive number for a few minutes here and there, but when those numbers are really low and then they go away by the next test, and there is no violation. If, however, your results cause a violation, or don't dissipate quickly, the key thing is to get a PBT test right away. If some circumstance prevents you from getting a PBT within a very short period of time, then get an EtG test that same day, or the next. If you're unclear about where to go, chances are you can call the probation department at the court where you had your last DUI, or even the probation department of a court near wherever you are, and find out what lab or testing facility they use to have these tests done. Most EtG tests will go back a few days to prove you haven't been drinking.