An ignition interlock violation is a nightmare. The notice of violation arrives in the mail and informs the person that his or her license WILL be revoked again on a certain, upcoming date. Sometimes, the things that give rise to a violation just happen beyond a person’s control. Other times, however, like when a person was already eligible to file for a full license, but didn’t, the ugly truth is that he interlock violation could have been avoided. The inspiration for this article came from real life case of ours we recently (and successfully) handled.
The client had already hired us to appeal for a full license, but was a bit slow getting everything together. Then, an interlock violation occurred. In this case, it was a “Tamper/Circumvent” violation because the person’s battery had died. Sometimes, if we are contacted timely, my team and I can head off a violation by making sure we get full and proper documentation to the Secretary of State (SOS). This is only possible when there is a mechanical problem with the vehicle or the interlock unit.
Taking care of these kinds of problems is something our firm does without charge for our existing clients. In this case, however, the client didn’t contact us about the battery issue, and instead sent something to the SOS that (obviously) didn’t work. For everything we’re going to discuss in this piece, the main point is that staying on the interlock longer the minimum time required is just a risk. The problem is that lots of people don’t see it that way because, knowing they’re not going to drink or do anything “wrong,” they’ll be okay.
Unfortunately, it’s the unexpected thing, like a mechanical problem with the vehicle, or something else unforeseen that just “happens” out of the blue, that gives rise to an interlock violation. It’s one thing if this occurs during that first year when a person is required to use the interlock. You can’t control what you can’t control. However, after that, when a person could have had it removed, but doesn’t, and then get’s violated, it basically amounts to having played with fire and then gotten burned. The “fire,” in that sense, is simply the risk that something outside of one’s control will go wrong.
The Michigan Secretary of State has rule and procedures in place for interlock use. To be sure, they are FAR from perfect. Indeed, we could spend a lot of time going over ways they could be improved, but that’s not our focus here. Instead, our concern is that every day a person spends on the interlock (also knows as a “BAIID,” or Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device) that he or she doesn’t have to is always a risk. The real point is that a person should move forward to get off the interlock as soon as he or she is eligible.
Over 99% of all people who win an initial driver’s license restoration case are given a restricted license and required to use an ignition interlock unit for a year. A person can stay on the interlock and drive with restrictions forever. Of course, everyone starts out with the idea of getting his or her “full” license as soon as they’re eligible. Nobody plans to stay on and pay for it longer than necessary.
What happens, however, is that the business of life takes over, people get busy, and things get in the way.
To be sure, there are plenty reasons why a person may not be able to go for a full license as soon as that initial year is up. Money is the most common. Whatever else, anyone who is put on the interlock should start taking steps to get off of it as soon as he or she can. For many, that may require putting a little money aside every pay period. As hard as that can be, it should be done, at least to the extent possible. Not everyone can just come up with the money for a full license appeal all at once.
For our part, my team and I try to help. All of our license appeal legal fees are broken down into 3 equal payments. Moreover, any client for whom we won an initial driver’s license restoration appeal will only pay 2/3 of our regular fee for for a “full” license. That discounted fee is also broken down into 3 equal installments.
Beyond financial concerns, another thing that happens is that people just get comfortable on the interlock. Once they can drive to, from and during work, and for other necessary reasons, life gets better. A whole lot better. Most have an intention to pursue full driving privileges (technically called a “change or removal of restrictions”), but that often becomes less of a priority simple because they can drive again for those necessary reasons.
In the real world, people tend to think about getting off the interlock most when they have to make a payment for their unit, or take their vehicle in for a calibration. “I’ve got to get this thing off,” they’ll say to themselves. Then, life gets busy again, and getting off of the interlock and obtaining a full license gets put on the back-burner.
Wash, rinse and repeat.
Human nature being what it is, most people don’t really think about the things that can go wrong with the BAIID that are unconnected to drinking. In other words, they feel a somewhat false sense of security because they know they’re not going to drink, and they just assume everything will be fine.
Until something happens. Machines break down. And the interlock isn’t just a machine; it’s a machine within a machine. Even if the interlock never malfunctions (although that happens often enough), the vehicle might. A person could be sitting at a red light and get rear-ended. When the police show up, his or her vehicle gets towed. At some point, the vehicle’s power gets disconnected, either right after the accident, or while it’s in the shop. Or, perhaps the people at the shop have to start the car, and a required breath gets missed.
Sometimes, a person just gets a false-positive. These things happen. A lot.
Maybe the vehicle is totaled. Maybe the person is taken to the hospital. Even if there are no injuries and someone just walks away, anytime a person loses his or her ride, things go haywire. They have to get the car to a repair shop and then deal with the insurance company. In all the fuss, the interlock often gets overlooked.
Here’s the thing; if the BAIID does get overlooked for more than 5 minutes and a test is missed after being requested, an interlock violation is automatic. Once the vehicle’s power gets disconnected, unless a person is able to head it off with the Secretary of State (and that can be hit or miss), then a violation will follow.
As noted earlier, there is nothing a person can do about these kinds of things during the time he or she is required to be on the interlock. As the old saying goes, $hit happens.
However, if a person has been fortunate enough to NOT have any trouble during the time he or she is required to use the BAIID, then why tempt fate and hope nothing goes wrong after that? An interlock violation is a royal pain, and, as we noted at the outset of this article, it starts with the person’s license being completely re-revoked and losing the ability to drive. The best insurance to cover that is to get off the interlock as soon as possible.
And that is our grand takeaway here. Don’t stay on the interlock any longer than you have to. No matter how well it may be working for you, a day could and may come when something outside of your control happens. Then, you get an interlock violation and lose your license all over again.
Once that happens, you can’t even FILE for a full license unless and until you timely appeal your interlock violation and win that hearing. That’s not cheap, and anytime it happens after a person has become eligible to file for full driving privileges, that means it could have been avoided.
If you are looking for a lawyer to win your license back, whether initially, to get off the interlock and get full driving privileges, or if you’re facing an ignition interlock violation, be a wise consumer and read around. Pay attention to how different lawyers break down the license appeal process, and how they explain their various approaches to it.
Once you’ve done enough reading, start checking around. You can learn a lot by speaking with a live person. Make sure you give our office a ring as you do that. We can handle your case no matter where you live. Everything is done remotely now with the Secretary of State, and we do everything virtually, as well, so location is no longer an issue.
All of our consultations are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call. My team and I are very friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions and explain things. We’ll also be happy to compare notes with anything some other lawyer has told you.
We can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (EST), at either 248-986-9700, or 586-465-1980.