How to Avoid an Ingnition Interlock Violation in Michigan (or, how you Should Have)

In my role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I handle a lot of ignition interlock violation cases. While I am glad to be able to help a person who winds up in a violation situation, I cannot get past the fact that most interlock violations could have been avoided in the first place. I get no delight in taking someone’s money because he or she stumbled into a predicament by accident or oversight. In this article, I want to remind the reader that the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (or AHS, and until recently known as the DAAD) provides a “Notice of Proper Interlock Use” form along with the order granting back your restricted license, and that you absolutely should read that form, then read it again and do as it instructs.

SSR 1.2.jpgIgnition interlock violations are a huge pain. I have examined them in various other blog articles as well as in the specific interlock violation section of my website. The sad irony here is that as much as I want this article to be a guide to preventing a violation from occurring, many readers will come upon it after a violation has already happened. When it occurs, you will be formally notified of an interlock violation by the Secretary of State in a letter that also tells you your license will be revoked all over again in a few days. The language used here can take a few minutes to figure out, because the technical term for a re-revocation is “reinstatement of original action,” the “original action” being the initial revocation of your driver’s license. The worst aspect of this notice is that the action has already been taken. There is no way to stop it; you can’t just call someone to straighten things out. The only thing you can do is file an appeal within 14 days to schedule a hearing so that you can try to win your license back – again. If you do not appeal, your license will remain revoked and you will have to start all over again from scratch.

Worse yet, if you don’t appeal the violation, you will essentially “confirm” that the allegations against you are true. Even if you do appeal, you have to win, and the Secretary of State is very tough on violations. I’d be less than honest if I didn’t point out that they have gotten even tougher in recent years, in part because they try hard to point out to people how to avoid these situations in the first place, and also because so many people show up confessing that they didn’t exactly read the Notice of Proper Interlock Use. As I noted at the outset of this article, the notice comes attached to the order granting your original driver’s license restoration appeal. On the flip side, it is difficult to say that you actually read it when you didn’t do what it so clearly instructs. Let’s take a look at the exact form the Secretary of State Provides:

NOTICE OF PROPER INTERLOCK USE

The statements that follow are not boilerplate. Common violations of the interlock device are listed, but this page is not exhaustive. You must read this Order in its entirety and learn to use the interlock device correctly. You are responsible for all interlock violations.

• Never leave your vehicle running and unattended, even momentarily. If you fail to provide a rolling re-test for any reason, it is a major violation of the interlock device. Your revocation/denial will be reinstated and you will lose your license.

• Never exit your vehicle without first making sure that a rolling re-test has not been requested. Arrive at your destination, physically look at the interlock device, and then turn off the ignition. You should look at the device again before exiting. Do not turn your vehicle off after a rolling re-test has been requested without providing a breath sample within the allotted five (5) minute time frame. Doing so is a major violation. Your revocation/denial will be reinstated and you will lose your license
• Regularly start your vehicle even if it is not being driven to ensure that the battery remains charged.

• You and/or a repair facility must contact the interlock company before making any repairs to your vehicle. Provide notice to the interlock company of the type of repairs and the dates they are scheduled to be completed.

• Obtain documentation (legible, dated, and signed receipts) for any repairs done to your vehicle. This includes tow receipts and receipts from auto parts stores. These receipts and a letter of explanation that is notarized, dated, and signed by you should be sent to the interlock company immediately after repairs are completed.

• Never eat or drink anything within 15 minutes of providing a breath sample. If alcohol is detected by the machine, you must rinse out your mouth with water and provide a second sample within five (5) minutes. Do not just walk away from the machine. It is advised that you keep a bottle of water in your vehicle. It is also advised that you obtain a preliminary breath test (PBT) from your local jail or sheriff’s department, or an Ethyl Glucuronide (ETG) test from a toxicology lab to prove that you were not drinking. Note that doing so will not necessarily avoid a reinstated revocation/denial if a major violation occurs, i.e., a failed rolling re-test. However, the test results may be taken into consideration in the event an administrative hearing is scheduled. The burden is always on you to prove that you continue to maintain abstinence.

• Limit the people who have access to your vehicle. You are responsible for all violations of the interlock device. Action will be taken against you if another individual misses a re-test, provides a breath sample with a BAC, or otherwise violates the interlock device.

Notify the Department within seven (7) days of changing interlock companies by mailing the new installation certificate.

Following these steps will avoid the vast majority of violations, and will be very helpful, in those cases where a violation still occurs, that you have the correct evidence to win at a hearing. I cannot say this strongly enough: Most violations can be avoided just by following the above instructions. Almost all of the violations I see involve a person who is still genuinely sober making an honest mistake and not doing what is outlined above.

I could belabor this all day long. In some of my articles, I do analyze things from end to end, but here, the point I want to make is so important that I don’t think any thoughts I can add will actually add anything of benefit to the state’s instructions. READ THEM!!!

If you do find yourself in an ignition interlock violation situation, I can probably help. I say “probably,” because I do not undertake representation if a person has legitimately been caught drinking. I’m not going to destroy my reputation by arguing something untrue, like that a positive interlock reading is a false positive, when in fact the person had consumed alcohol. I have this (expensive) moral thing about only taking cases when my client, whatever else he or she may have done, has honestly kept sober. If that describes you, do your homework, read what other lawyers have written, call around, and then make sure you call my office, as well, to see how I answer your questions. We’re open M-F, from 8:30 to 5, and can be reached at (586) 465-1980.