Connecticut Enacts New Ignition Interlock Device Law

The State of Connecticut just enacted a law requiring those who have a 2nd DUI conviction within a 10 year period to participate in the ignition interlock program. Drivers of ignition interlock equipped vehicles must blow into the device prior to trying to start the car. The interlock device prevents will prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver’s breath registers an alcohol reading above a pre-set limit. In Massachusetts, that limit is .02 and in Connecticut, the initial start limit is .025. These devices enhance public safety because they physically prevent a DUI offender from starting his or her motor vehicle while intoxicated. Prior to the enactment of this law, ignition interlock usage in Connecticut was voluntary and it allowed those serving DUI license suspensions to get back on the road after serving one year of the suspension term. There are currently four companies approved to install ignition interlock devices in Connecticut: Consumer Safety Tech, Inc. (CST), Draeger Safety Diagnostics, Smart Start, and SOL America. 

Connecticut’s ignition interlock law is similar to the law enacted as part of Melanie’s Law in Massachusetts. Here, all second offenders are required to serve at least 2 years in the ignition interlock program and the devices are required for all subsequent offenders while on any type of DUI hardship license. The Mass. RMV requires interlock users to have their devices downloaded and serviced every 30 days, while Connecticut requires ignition interlock devices to be serviced every two months.

The Connecitcut Governor also enacted a law which requires background checks for DMV employees who have the authority to issue driver’s licenses and Registry ID cards. The purpose of this law is to enhance the security of state-issued licenses and ID cards, in accordance with the federal “Real ID” law.

Not Guilty of DUI with High Breathalzyer Readings

The best Massachusetts DUI Lawyers know that it is possible to get a not verdict in a drunk driving case, even with high breathalyzer readings. In some cases, it may be possible to prevent the jury for even hearing about the alcohol readings. In Massachusetts, in order for breath test results to be admissible in a DUI trial, the breath analysis must have been performed by a certified operator using a certified infrared breathalyzer and the test must be conducted in accordance with the procedures established by the Office of Alcohol Testing.

This means that for breathalyzer readings to be used against some accused of DUI in Massachusetts, the test must have been conducted on an approved and certified breath testing device, by a trained and certified police officer who followed specific procedures and rules. These rules are designed to insure that the breathalyzer and alcohol simulator solution, which is used to confirm the accuracy of the breath tests, are working properly and that they produce reliable and accurate alcohol readings.

Massachusetts DUI law establishes a mandatory program which requires annual and periodic testing of breathalyzer equipment and simulators used in drunk driving cases. There is a procedure which applies to the Alcotest 7110 MKIII-C breathalyzer and CU34 simulator solution unit. This procedure must be followed if breathalyzer results are going to be used in a DUI case, so as to ensure accuracy of the breathalyzer results. The procedures require that an analyst tests each Alcotest breathalyzer annually and the machines must be tested and proven every time they are used.

A good Massachusetts DUI attorney may be able to successfully challenge the breathalyzer results on the grounds that the required procedures were not followed. If the breathalyzer and simulator solution were not working properly at the time the breathalyzer test was performed, their results must be excluded from trial. In-depth knowledge of these procedures allows the best DUI lawyers to get not guilty verdicts, even in cases where there are high BAC readings.

Court Ordered License Suspensions

Those facing criminal charges for offenses such as DUI, driving to endanger, or other motor vehicle related offenses such as motor vehicle homicide, should be aware of the possibility of the court imposing license suspension penalties as a condition of probation.  In Massachusetts, judges have the legal authority to impose terms and conditions of probation which can include a prohibition against seeking a driver’s license or operating a motor vehicle.  A violation of probation may result in a surrender hearing and possible jail time. This penalty, which judges sometimes impose, is in addition to any statutory license suspension.  It is for this reason that the Board of Appeal requires that hardship license applicants notify their probation officers prior to appearing before the Board for a limited or hardship license.

If a judge imposes a driving restriction as a probation condition or he issues a court order which prohibits an individual from driving, neither the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles nor the Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance will grant any type of restricted or hardship license. The only way to get a license in such circumstances is to have the court order modified or vacated by the court system. The Registry and Board of Appeal will respect the order of the court.

Most Massachusetts DUI lawyers are aware of potential additional license suspensions arising from probation conditions or court orders and they will take the steps necessary to protect their clients from such consequences, to the extent possible. Most of these issues can be worked out with the court and the district attorney’s as part of the plea negotiation process. However, it is important to remember that even if the RMV somehow allows an individual to apply for a license, he or she may be violating terms and conditions of probation, or a court order, by attempting to obtain a driver’s license or operate a motor vehicle.

Mass. RMV License Reinstatement Procedures

If your license is suspended or revoked under the habitual traffic offender law, the Massachusetts JOL speeding law, or for subsequent DUI convictions, after you have served your revocation time, you must submit a new license application and apply for a full license exam. You can do this at any full service Registry of Motor Vehicles with four pieces of positive identification: (1) SSN card or valid current U.S. or non-U.S. passport, (2) a Document proving date of birth, (3) a document proving your signature, and (4) a Document proving signature. You must also pay a reinstatement fee of at least $500.00 and the $30.00 fee for the learner’s permit exam. Your license will not be reinstated unless and until you pay the required fees. The Registry does not accept credit cards for reinstatement fees. Instead, you must pay by cash or check.

Once you take the written test and obtain the Massachusetts Learner’s Permit, you can schedule a road test. Upon successful completion of the road test, you will be issued a new driver’s license. If you’re reinstating from a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th offense DUI suspension, you will need to have the ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle prior to getting your license. You will need to have the interlock device while you are on any hardship license and for a minimum of 2 years after getting a fulltime license.

The National Driver Register (NDR)

When faced with a license suspension for DUI, being a habitual traffic offender, ignition interlock violations, or other suspension reasons, many people believe that  getting a license in another state is a viable solution. For a number of reason, this is not likely a valid option. First, if your Massachusetts license is suspended or revoked, for any reason, having a license issued by another state is no defense. You are still committing the criminal offense of driving on a suspended license, even though you may have a license from another state. The Massachusetts suspension will take precedence, in Massachusetts, over the other license and you can be arrested and prosecuted for operating after suspension or revocation.

Secondly, the National Driver Register (NDR) will likely prevent you from getting a new license in another state if your Massachusetts license is suspended or revoked. The NDR was designed to the assist Registry and Motor Vehicle Departments in exchanging information about the motor vehicle driving records of individuals, so that a driver with a suspended license is unable to get a license in another state.

The National Driver Register is a computerized database where driving records are cross-referenced to identify drivers who are under suspension or revocation. The National Driver Registry maintains a problem driver “pointer system,” and adverse information about a driver in that system is relied upon by the State to deny license issuance or renewal. The “Problem Driver Pointer System” is a system whereby the NDR causes information regarding the motor vehicle driving records of individuals to be exchanged between the State which took adverse action against a driver (State of Record) and the State requesting the information (State of Inquiry).The system works by matching the driver’s last name and first few characters of the driver’s first name and date of birth. It does not depend on license or social security number matching as a primary means of identification. The Massachusetts RMV and motor vehicle departments throughout the country check the NDR prior to issuing or renewing a driver’s license.

Prior to the implementation of the National Driver Register and the Problem Driver Pointer System, states relied on the Driver License Compact, which was an agreement between states to share information regarding DUI license actions, drunk driving suspensions, and other reportable convictions and license transactions. Under this system, it was possible to “dodge the bullet” if a state where the suspension originated was not a member of the Driver License Compact. Now, all 50 states have converted to the National Driver Register’s Problem Driver Pointer System, which was established through federal legislation.

Additionally, in Massachusetts, the RMV Board of Appeals looks upon out of state license applications which are filed close in time with a Massachusetts suspension with suspicion. The Board is familiar with individuals trying to get licensed in other states in order to avoid the consequences of their actions and it  will likely hold this against the individual in any hardship license hearing.

If you are facing a license suspension or revocation, the best course of action is to consult with a license suspension specialist such as Attorney Brian E.  Simoneau or Attorney Paul B. Watkins and appeal the suspension.  License suspensions can be appealed to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance, and to the courts. It may be possible to avoid the suspension completely, reduce the suspension time, or get a hardship driver’s license.

Florida Careless Driving Citation Triggers Mass. License Suspensions

The Massachusetts License Suspension Law, G.L. c. 90 § 22(c) states that if a Massachusetts resident or Mass. licensed driver is convicted in another state of a motor vehicle violation, the Mass. RMV is required to treat the conviction as if it had occurred here in Massachusetts. The Registry has interpreted this legal requirement to mean that the Florida offense of “careless driving” should be treated as a conviction for “negligent operation” in Massachusetts. This means that if a Massachusetts resident or Mass. license holder is convicted of careless driving in Florida, the Mass. Registry of Motor Vehicles will suspend the person’s driver’s license for at least 60 days. Also, the FL careless driving violation may count against the person under the Massachusetts Habitual Traffic Offender Law.

Apparently, Florida police officers routinely issue citations for careless driving. Several Massachusetts residents who were involved in Florida traffic accidents have reported that Florida police officers are required to issue careless driving tickets anytime there is a motor vehicle accident. These out of state accidents can result in automobile insurance surcharges as well as Massachusetts license revocations.

There are legal differences between the Florida Careless Driving violation and the Massachusetts Negligent Operation offense such that it may be possible to have these careless driving license suspensions overturned by the Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance. Contact Attorney Brian E. Simoneau for more information. However, the best way to avoid a 60 day Massachusetts License Suspension for Careless Driving in Florida is to appeal your Florida traffic citation. In Florida, your personal appearance may not be required and you may be able to have a Florida Traffic Ticket Lawyer represent you in court and avoid a suspension-triggering conviction.    

RMV Boston Hearing Officer Receives Award

As part of the Registry’s new Employee Recognition Program, Massachusetts RMV Hearings Officer Iris Benitez received an award recognizing her as a prompt and customer friendly Registry Hearing Officer who serves as a model for other Mass. Registry Employees. Ms. Benitez conducts license suspension, revocation, and hardship license hearings at the Driver Control Unit, which is located at the RMV’s Boston Branch at 630 Washington St. in Chinatown. Ms. Benitez is a firm but fair hearing officer who thoroughly analyzes complex license suspension cases and decides them in accordance with Registry policy. She was recognized as a DOT Employee of the Month for May, 2010. Contratulations to Ms. Benitez for her excellent work.

Cameras Protect Mass. Ignition Interlock Users

The Massachusetts Ignition Interlock Device Law only prevents the driver whose license is restricted from operating with blood alcohol readings in excess of .02. This means that family members and others who drive the DUI offender’s vehicle do not violate the law by driving with a low level of blood alcohol. However, in Massachusetts, even low alcohol readings can trigger a license suspension. Therefore, the true identity of the driver in ignition interlock violation cases is often questioned.

In order to address this issue, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles requires interlock users to sign an acknowledgement which states that “If my Ignition Interlock Device is locked out, I understand that the Registry will consider any lockout of the device to have been caused by me, and also understand that it is my responsibility to inform anyone using my vehicle(s) of that. Since any lockout of my vehicle will be assessed against me, I accept responsibility for any lockouts of the vehicles I own.”

The acknowledgement places an unfair burden on the interlock-restricted driver and unfairly attempts to make him or her responsible for IID lockouts, which may result in a 10 year or lifetime license revocation. Instead of unfairly trying to make the holder of an interlock restricted license automatically responsible for all lockouts, whether he or she was driving or not, technology can be used to determine who was driving at the time alcohol readings were recorded.

At least two interlock companies, Smart Start and Intoxalock, use small cameras to record an image of the person providing breath samples. This protects the driver from alcohol readings caused by others and it further protects the driver by showing that he or she is actually the person providing the breath sample. Images of the person blowing into the IID are very helpful in cases where it is alleged that the ignition interlock restricted driver had someone else blow into the IID. I predict that other interlock companies will offer video-equipped breath alcohol ignition interlock units in the near future. Given the “guilty until proven innocent” theory upon which the Massachusetts Ignition Interlock Program is based, these video-equipped IIDs will be helpful in the defense of drivers accused of certain intelrock violations.

Mass. Resident Charged with Golf Cart DUI in Vermont

The Associated Press reported that Vermont State Police have charged a Massachusetts resident with driving a golf cart under the influence of Alcohol. In a story reported by the Cape Cod Times, an Orleans, Massachusetts resident was charged with driving a golf cart after he had allegedly consumed 4 or 5 cans of beer.

For a DUI conviction in Massachusetts, it is required that the driver operate a motor vehicle on a public way or right of access, while under the influence of drugs or intoxicating liquor. It is unknown whether a golf cart would qualify as a motor vehicle under Massachusetts Law. However, if the driver of the golf cart is convicted, he may lose his license in Massachusetts, under a law that requires the Registry to treat out of state DUI offenses committed by Mass. residents or license holders as if they had occurred here in Massachusetts. Also, if the State of Vermont suspends the man’s license, Massachusetts may do likewise under reciprocity.

Mass. Ignition Interlock Device Vendors

Pursuant to Melanie’s Law, G.L. c. 90 § 24 ½, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles requires anyone with 2 or more DUI convictions or alcohol program assignments on his or her record to use the ignition interlock device during the term of any hardship license and for 2 years after getting a full license.

There are 5 authorized ignition interlock device vendors which the Registry has approved to service Massachusetts ignition interlock customers. They are as follows:

Ignition interlock devices sometimes register false positive readings and violations of the ignition interlock law and the Registry’s interlock regulations can result in a 10 year or lifetime license revocation. If you have received an ignition interlock violation notice, you should contact an experienced ignition interlock defense lawyer such as Attorney Brian E. Simoneau.

Attorney Simoneau is a recognized Ignition interlock devices expert and, in addition to defending clients charged with ignition interlock violations, he routinely consults with and assists other Massachusetts DUI Lawyers in the area of ignition interlock defense.