From our perspectives as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, most tamper/circumvent ignition interlock violations are entirely NOT the fault of the person required to use the device. Of course, anytime the Secretary Of State issues a BAIID violation, it is serious business. The first thing that happens after a person receives notice of an interlock violation is that his or her driving privileges get revoked again. He or she must then request a hearing on the matter within 14 days, or their license will stay revoked.
This is how the law works. It won’t do ANY good to waste one’s breath griping about how this is unfair. As the saying goes, “it is what it is.” Driving is a privilege granted by the state, not a right. However much someone may not like it, that’s just a fact. Moreover, a person only winds up in this position after racking up multiple DUI’s. Someone can grumble that “this is unfair” all they want, but the reality is that there is no pool of public sympathy to change the driver’s license rules and make things easier for repeat DUI offenders.
True as all that may be, the simple fact is that the vast majority of tamper/circumvent ignition interlock violations DO produce an unfair result. Our firm handles about 200 license appeal matters per year, including many tamper/circumvent violation hearings. Fortunately, and without exception, every last one of the hundreds that we have fought over the years has been overturned. Unfortunately, in just about every such case, what happened was NOT the client’s fault, yet they still had hire us to fight this.
One of the most common tamper/circumvent ignition interlock violations occurs when a person’s battery dies. In fact, the battery doesn’t even have to die, but rather just slip below a certain minimum voltage, and then the interlock unit basically records this as if the power has been disconnected. Because of the way batteries work, we tend to see more of these violations in the winter, rather than the summer.
There is a bit of good news here: In SOME cases, we are able to help our clients get documentation and information to the Secretary of State to “head off” an ignition interlock violation.
The bad news is that it is likely too late for most people reading this, because they will probably have been violated already.
In plenty of tamper/circumvent ignition interlock violation cases there actually IS a disconnection of the power done by someone working on the vehicle. We’ve seen countless cases wherein a person has had his or her vehicle in for some kind of repair and was assured by the facility that they’d take care of the interlock. The person will then pick up his or her vehicle, thinking everything went okay – until they get a violation notice in the mail.
At that point, it’s too late to do anything but request a hearing. And yes, that IS unfair. You’d think that the Michigan Secretary of State would have some better system in place to prevent this kind of waste of time. My team and I have, on many occasions, wondered why nobody in authority has taken any steps to fix this problem. To be sure, it is a problem. Hearing dates for license appeals and ignition interlock violation cases can be months away because of the never-ending backlog in the system, and these kinds of BS violations don’t help
One way to remedy this would be to find some workaround for tamper/circumvent ignition interlock violations, or at least some of them, given that most are found to NOT be the fault of the person required to use the device.
However, the state also has to err on the side of caution. Many years ago, a hearing officer explained to me that there was a case where a guy had lost power for just a few minutes. It was later discovered was that during that brief time, he had rigged up his interlock unit so that it would always report his BAC as 0.00, even if he had been drinking.
Talk about one bad apple ruining it for everyone…
The idea of changing the system is all well and fine as a future consideration, but it does nothing to help anyone who is currently facing a tamper/circumvent ignition interlock violation. Whatever facts led up to it, once a violation is pending with the Secretary of State, we have to swing into action, request a hearing, and then win it.
Most people understand this much, but there is a lot more to winning a hearing than just showing up and proving the client didn’t do anything wrong.
One can be sure that, whatever is alleged in any interlock violation, the hearing officer is going to inquire about a lot more than just that. These hearings are seen as an opportunity to take another look at whether or not the initial decision to grant a license was correct. A very recent, real-life example from our office explains this best:
A father called for his son, who had won a restricted license some months before. Then, the kid got violated for a missed rolling retest, and the dad was confident that his son would be able to handle it on his own. A subsequent breath test a few minutes after the one that was missed showed that the he had NOT consumed any alcohol.
Convinced that the truth, by itself, was enough, the son requested a hearing and went at this without a lawyer.
A short time later, he received a decision in the mail UPHOLDING the revocation of his license. In other words, he lost.
Although this was not specifically a tamper/circumvent ignition interlock violation, it illustrates the point perfectly:
There was no doubt that the son had inadvertently missed the breath test, and, as he and his father expected, his subsequent breath tests also left no doubt that he had NOT been drinking.
However, when the hearing officer began questioning him about the evidence and statements from his original appeal, some of his answers were different. He wasn’t consistent with all of his dates, and that caused the hearing officer to deny his violation appeal.
In other words, he sort of “won” on the interlock violation issue, but lost because he hadn’t been properly prepared for everything else that was going to happen at the hearing.
That is a critical part of handling interlock violations that should NEVER be overlooked. My team and I would never consider appearing for a hearing until we’d carefully read every document filed as part of the original appeal, and making sure that our client had reviewed all the important dates and facts, as well.
To do anything less is outright negligent.
Of course, the dad who called for his son didn’t know this, but we do, and so should any lawyer who is willing to undertake representation in an ignition interlock violation case.
We see stuff like this a lot from people who try a “do-it-yourself” (DIY) job, or who used some lawyer who doesn’t concentrate in license restoration cases, like our firm does, AFTER it’s too late to do anything about it.
In the case I mentioned above, the money saved by not having hired a real license restoration lawyer will have to be spent twice over when this kid starts the process all over again, from square one. Then, he’ll have to put in at least another year on the interlock. Sure, that sucks, but here again, we come back to the simple truth that “it is what it is.”
For something like a missed breath test, a person can at least partially blame themselves. However, when it comes to a tamper/circumvent ignition interlock violation, it’s almost always because of some reason(s) beyond the person’s control. People don’t just let their battery die; they find out about it, often at the most inconvenient time.
We have heard, countless times, how a person has been reassured that a repair facility will “take care” of the interlock, either by making sure there are no missed tests, or contacting the interlock company to set things up in advance when the power to the vehicle must be disconnected. Although we have no idea how often such plans do succeed, we have certainly seen how often they don’t.
And that means someone is going to be screwed over by a tamper/circumvent ignition interlock violation. Anyone on an interlock has to take it seriously.
There is no grand takeaway here, other than that if you’re facing a tamper/circumvent ignition interlock violation, or a violation for anything else, don’t play lawyer and try this on your own. As another old saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”
Instead, put in a little time and look around for an attorney. Be a savvy consumer and compare. Read how different lawyers break this all down, and how they explain their various approaches to ignition interlock violation matters.
This blog is a great place to start. It is fully searchable, and to-date, I have written and published more than 690 articles in the driver’s license restoration section. That’s more articles than license restoration cases than almost any GROUP of lawyers will ever see in their combined careers. There is simply no other resource like this anywhere, but don’t take my word for it – check for yourself.
When you’ve done enough reading, start calling around. You can learn a lot by speaking with a live person, and that’s exactly what you’ll get when you call our office. 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, explain things, and even 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., at 248-986-9700 or 586-465-1980.