Avoiding Ignition Interlock Violations

If you have a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) installed in your motor vehicle, you should take precautions to avoid an IID violation, which can result in the revocation of your Massachusetts Driver’s License. IIDs are not foolproof and they sometimes register false positive readings. Fortunately, there are simple things that you can do to reduce the probability of a false positive reading.

First, if you are sending your vehicle out for service, you should notify the the mechanic or repair facility that your vehicle has an IID and that you are responsible for any violations. With thousands of ignition interlocks in operation in Massachusetts, most repair facilities are probably familiar with the devices.

When vehicles are being serviced, it is common to have errors such as voice tone aborts and missed rolling re-tests. You may also have alcohol readings if the repair person has alcohol on his breath. Finally, your IID may register tampering, circumvention, voltage fluctuations, and battery disconnections. It is absolutely imperative to get documentation from the repair facility showing when your vehicle was brought in for service, the repair work done, and when the vehicle was returned. The paperwork should also reflect the odometer mileage.

In the event that a violation occurs while the vehicle was being serviced, you will be able to demonstrate that at an ignition interlock violation hearing by producing the paperwork. This may prevent a long-term license revocation.

Next, you should not have anything in your mouth except water, for the 15 minute period immediately before trying to start your vehicle. Ignition interlock devices can mistake food products, mouthwashes, candy, gum, mints, cough drops, and other consumables as alcohol. To prevent this from happening, you can rinse your mouth out with water and consume nothing by mouth prior to blowing into the IID.

Finally, you should notify anyone who operates your vehicle that you will be initially held responsible for any alcohol readings or ignition interlock infractions or violations. To avoid major problems with the Registry, anyone who drives your car should not consume any alcoholic beverages prior to driving or attempting to start the car. The Registry operates on the presumption that the person with the “Z” restriction on his or her license was the operator of the car. In order to overcome this presumption, at your Ignition Interlock Violation Hearing, you must produce evidence to show that you were not operating the vehicle.

If you are driving on an ignition interlock restricted hardship license, you will need to use the IID for a minimum of 2 years after having the “H” restriction from your license. This means that you should have the hours taken off as soon as your suspension expires. The 2 year mandatory IID period will commence only when the “H” restriction is removed from your driver’s license.

If you have questions regarding ignition interlock violations, contact a lawyer at 508-656-0057 for a review of your situation.

Caught in a Catch-22 Between States

The Situation:

I have run into a situation from the state of NM and am not sure if I need a lawyer to fix this now or not. I got a DUI in 2006 in the state of Florida. I paid all my fines, took the schooling required, went through the entire process,and got my normal license back in Florida. I then moved to NM several years later. After not so much as a parking ticket for five plus years.

When arriving in NM almost 6 years after my offense I was told I would have to surrender my license again and have an interlock device installed due to state laws. I complied had the device added to my vehicle for the “1 year period” at a substantial cost, after nine months of having it in my car, I had to move to Massachusetts due to my other half being moved for work. I called the DMV to get guidance, they directed me to someone in charge of the interlock system in the state. I have her name written down, but for now I guess not important. She stated I would have to pay the interlock company the remainder of the year, have it removed and then not drive my vehicle for the remaining time. She told me they would not release my license until the year was up and I would have to have my car towed to Massachusetts and not drive at all until May 15th 2014. I did that at a cost of over $2200.00, it was the law (double jeopardy if you asks me), I complied. She stated at the end of a year I would have to pay a fee to NM of 100.00 to have my license reinstated. At the end of the year I paid the fee and had my license reinstated I thought.

I went to the DMV here in Massachusetts and they had me get my driving record from NM so they can process a license for me. NM states I am clear and can fly there and get a new license, but they can not remove the restriction for interlock though they say I have done everything correctly and am able to get a license. They say the system will not allow them to remove the restriction but I am clear to get a license. Massachusetts DMV says they can not process license without the restriction being removed and the two agencies were literally arguing over the phone with each other. MA says they should just remove the restriction and NM says the system does not allow that, I would have to fly back there and get my license renewed there then move out of state.

This has been a nightmare from the start. I am no longer a resident of NM and in order to renew my license there, I would have to purchase a round trip plane ticket, then I would have to lie and state I am a resident, however they will not allow my license to be reinstated in another state or remove the restriction, even through I have completed the year and done everything thing they have asked. I am lost as to what to do next. What I would like to do is sue the state of NM for all my time and energy lost and for “Double Jeopardy” though I am sure they have some justification as to why they are able to penalize a person who has already paid the price once, with a law they created to be backwards compatible, and create more funds for their broke down state.

Is this the kind of situation you handle? What kind of costs would be associated with getting this fixed? For this same DUI offense I have now paid in the state of Florida to the tune of approximately $9000.00, the state of New Mexico six years later, to the tune of another $4500.00 including the interlock installation, check ups removal and towing of my vehicle, fees and state gouging. It appears I will now have to hire an attorney because the two states can not agree on how the system works, both sides agree I should be able to get a license and both blame the other for the reason that its not able to be processed.

The Answer:
MassDOt does not have this record blocked in the NDR and there is no suspension in effect in Massachusetts. Therefore, this person should be able to get a license in his state of residence. He is not IID required under Massachusetts law, because he only has one (1) operating under the influence conviction.

CT May Require Ignition Interlocks for 1st Offenders

IGNITION_INTERLOCKFirst offenders in the state of Connecticut may soon be required to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles if Senate Bill 465, which was unanimously passed by the Connecticut General Assembly is signed into law. A similar 1st offender interlock bill was proposed in Massachusetts and it is likely to be re-introduced. It would require those convicted of a first offense OUI to use the IID For 6 months in Massachusetts.

The Connecticut Interlock Bill, which is on the governor’s desk for signature, has received strong support by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The group recognizes that ignition interlock devices are more effective at combating DUI than license suspensions. MADD favors issuing ignition-interlock restricted hardship licenses. MADD’s goal is to have IIDs in every state for every convicted drunk driver.

Currently, a first offender in Connecticut can attend an alcohol education program and serve a license suspension ranging from 90 day to 1 year in length, without any requirement to use an ignition interlock device. Under the proposed legislation, IID requirements would vary based on the facts of the particular DUI case. Massachusetts drivers who are charged with DUI in Connecticut would be held to the same IID requirements as Connecticut drivers.

If the Governor signs the bill into law, it will go into effect in July of 2015. Last year, there were approximately 6,500 first offenders in Connecticut. This law would require any new first offenders to install ignition interlock devices as a condition of license reinstatement.

Currently, the State of Connecticut requires interlocks for anyone who is convicted of operating a motor vehicle under the influence. First offenders are able to avoid a “conviction,” and the interlock restriction, by attending an alcohol education program. Senate Bill 465 would require even these offenders who participate in the DWI diversion program to use the interlock devices, which have been proven to save lives.

Charged with an Ignition Interlock Violation? Hire a Lawyer.

I just spoke with a gentleman who is currently serving a 10 year revocation of his license for an ignition interlock violation. His ex-wife was driving his car after she had been drinking and she was the one who caused his ignition interlock device to register alcohol. This individual made the mistake of representing himself before the Registry of Motor Vehicles Ignition Interlock Department and the Registry found him in violation of G.L. c. 90 § 24 ½, the Mass. Ignition Interlock Law. He should have hired a lawyer to handle his Ignition Interlock Violation hearing , but he thought that he could handle it himself.

After serving several years without a license, he appealed the 10 year license revocation to the Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance. The Board has the legal authority to grant a hardship or full license, even when the Registry has ruled against you. The Board is extremely busy, as it handles upwards of 5,000 hearings a year on a shoestring budget, with a very minimal support  staff.  Again, this individual appeared without an attorney. Maybe he didn’t want to spend the money or maybe he thought that he didn’t need a lawyer. The Board affirmed the 10 year revocation of his license and gave him no relief.

He recently filed another appeal to go before the Board of Appeal again. This time, he received a letter from the Board informing him that hearing was previously held in his case and after due consideration the Board voted to affirm the decision of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles and it did not authorize him to file a new appeal.  Nevertheless, the Board received another appeal of the same license revocation which it had previously affirmed and the new appeal was filed without the Board’s approval. The letter further observed that the Appellant failed to seek, or has been denied, relief from the Superior Court Department pursuant to G.L. c. 30A § 14, and the Board of Appeal will take no action on the request. Translation: the Board said “no, and don’t come back.”

Unfortunately, there is nothing that I can do for this person and he must serve the balance of his 10 year Ignition Interlock Device Revocation before he can try to get his license back. When that time comes, he will have to take written and road tests, pay a reinstatement fee, and serve 2 years with the IID.  He had a strong case and a lawyer could likely have prevented him from losing his license in the first place.

The Mass. Ignition Interlock Device Law

Every state has enacted a law permitting a court or administrative agency to order a convicted drunk driver to install an ignition interlock for some period after conviction. In Massachusetts, at present, this requirement applies to those who have 2 or more operating under the influence convictions or alcohol program assignments. The ignition interlock device restriction will be applied to any hardship license and it will remain in place for 2 years after the repeat offender has his or her hardship hours removed.

Ignition interlock proponents such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving are attempting to require even first offenders in Massachusetts to drive only with an ignition interlock for a 6 month period.

Ignition interlock devices require a driver to provide a breath sample which does not contain alcohol before allowing the driver to start his or her vehicle. It also requires periodic rolling re-tests. Not taking or failing rolling re-tests can result in a long-term license revocation.

In addition to an automatic license revocation, operating without an ignition interlock device carries minimum sentence of 2½ years to 5 years in state prison, with a minimum mandatory 6 month sentence and a fine of $1,000.00 to $15,000.

Current Ignition interlock devices use technology to detect any tampering, circumvention, or unauthorized disconnection. Any of these acts can trigger severe penalties and license revocations.

As evidenced by one recent case, Massachusetts judges are not sympathetic to those who drive in violation of the ignition interlock restriction. When one defendant was before the court for driving without the IID, the Judge scolded him as follows, “it’s the sense of entitlement. Rules don’t apply to me, so I’m going to do whatever it takes to pursue my livelihood, even though that’s in the face of a restriction.”

If you have questions regarding the Massachusetts IID law or if you have been accused of an ignition interlock violation, you should contact a lawyer who specializes in ignition interlock defense. Effective legal representation may save your driver’s license and prevent a jail sentence.

Ignition Interlock Question & Answer

Hello.  I was given your information on a local forum for people who have IID devices in their car in the state of MA.  I am pretty sure i don’t need your legal help this time but had a quick question to make sure.

I have been anal about being so careful with my device.  It locked out once during a rolling retest because the power bar i was eating had sugar alcohol in it but i immediately re-blew while driving and rinsing my mouth and it was fine.  I got a start-up violation about six months ago but no lock out on a start up because i had scampi and i blew in the thing and it recognized bac too high.  This past Saturday I got a start up violation at around 2 pm and when i tried again at five ,,,, same thing.  I know it was something i took with regard to cold medicine because i was sick as a dog and taking stuff all day.  and i don’t drink.

Either way, I immediately went to the service station the next day and had the thing unlocked but now i am worried i am gonna have a hearing etc. From everything I have heard though a lockout due to two start up violations in the same service period is bad but I wont need to have a hearing.

Sorry to burden you with this but your name is coming up everywhere as the IID lawyer.

Any info you could give on this would be really helpful.  I am having a heart attack as you can imagine.

The Ignition Interlock Unit of the registry of Motor Vehicles does not impose license suspensions for initial start IID violations. The rationale for this is that the device is working as intended. It is preventing someone with a blood alcohol concentration of at or above .02 from starting his or her motor vehicle. This is the primary goal of the Massachusetts IID program and, in and of itself, an initial start violation will not trigger a license suspension.

Rolling re-tests are designed to a driver who has been drinking from circumventing the system by having someone else blow into the device to start the vehicle and then operating with a BAC at or above .02. Therefore, 2 or more failed rolling re-tests will result in a registry hearing and, potentially, a long-term license suspension. In summary, if you have 2 or more “failed rolling re-tests,” you will likely be called into the Ignition Interlock Unit of the Mass. RMV, which is located at 25 Newport Avenue Extension, for an Ignition Interlock Violation (IVO) hearing. Likewise, if you have a single rolling retest reading at or above .05, you are also likely to be called in for a hearing.

The failed initial start test due to scampi will not result in a hearing notice or license suspension.

Whenever you experience an ignition interlock violation, you should immediately document what happened and proactively report it to the Registry of Motor Vehicles by meeting with a Registry hearings officer. You may also be able to get an exculpatory breath test from the police or an exculpatory blood alcohol test from a hospital. To have evidential value, these tests must be conducted close in time to the alleged violation. One of the easiest ways to avoid violations is to avoid eating or drinking anything, except water, while driving and for at least 15 minutes prior to attempting to start your vehicle. Breath sample contamination is a leading cause of ignition interlock violations. These violations occur when the IID misinterprets food or drink for a consumed alcoholic beverage.

Mass. Appeals Court Rules on Ignition Interlock Device Requirement

In the case of Commonwealth v. Sean M. Pettit, the Massachusetts Appeals Court announced that a person who is required to use an ignition interlock device in accordance with Melanie’s Law cannot be convicted of operating a motor vehicle without the ignition interlock device unless the driver’s license is active when he or she is caught driving without the IID.

On August 15, 1996, Pettit was convicted of a first offense DUI, in violation of G.L. c. 90, § 24. On December 9, 1999, he was convicted of a 2nd offense DUI. As a result of his two drunk driving convictions, his driver’s license was revoked on December 16, 1999. On May 24, 2007, well after the enactment of Melanie’s Law, Pettit reinstated his driver’s license with the ignition interlock device restriction. However, Pettit removed the ignition interlock device from his vehicle and his license was revoked due to the removal of the IID.

On July 28, 2009, a police officer caught Pettit driving on a revoked license without an ignition interlock device, allegedly in violation of G.L. c. 90, § 24S. His lawyer correctly claimed that the conviction was invalid because Petitt was operating on a revoked and not a restricted license at the time of his arrest. The Mass. Appeals Court ruled that a driver’s license cannot be revoked and restricted at the same time.

The Massachusetts RMV Requires Ignition Interlock for Repeat DUI Offenders, No Exceptions

Question: I was arrested in June of 2004 for my 1st OUI-I was put on probation and lost my license was suspended about 2 or 3 weeks later I was involved in a accident and was arrested on my 2nd OUI and Driving After Suspension-I paid a really large sum of money and my attorney had my 2 OUI’s lumped into 1 and my case was continued without a finding (CWOF)-over the next couple of years I did all that was asked of me by the courts and my probation ended-the only thing I did not do was pay the $600 fine I needed to pay to get my license back -in 2006 I went into the Boston registry to see what it would take to get my license back (I didn’t know about the fine yet) The associate at the registry stated to me (and gave me a paper) that all I had to do to get my license re-instated was to pay the $600.00 fine-that was it-nothing else-(definitely not an Ignition Interlock Device) was never mentioned!! The years went by and I never really needed a reason to have my license-Fast -Forward to 2011 and I went to the registry to get my license re-instated (I was anticipating having to go through the whole license process-starting with getting my permit-I was also told this by a bunch of individuals also) the associate at the registry stated I had to see a Hearings Officer -so I proceeded to wait hours for one-I finally met with one and she stated that I would have to pay the $600.00 fine and in addition i would have to buy a car first and then have an Ignition Interlock Device installed in that car-them my license would be re-instated-I walked out in disgust-I was never told this back in 2006-both my cases were well before Melanie’s Law was signed into law!! I don’t believe this is “right” or “fair”-I have friends and acquaintances that have 2 or more OUI’s and they didn’t even have to get the ignition interlock device-I am so sad and confused -i need your help-I can’t afford to get this device and back in 2006 they never, ever said anything about this device.

How can the RMV can do this? Do I have any recourse? #1 I did not have the $600.00 for the fine for the longest time #2 I started drinking right after my probation was cleared up and became a terrible alcoholic so bad that I locked myself in my house and drank 24/7 -so I didn’t care about my license anyway-I did eventually seek professional help in 2008 and I have been sober ever since-is there anything that can be done to avoid this interlock device? I mean what if I (or someone else in this predicament) had temporary paralysis or any other major health condition that prevented them of making that deadline (Hypothetically speaking)? Thanks again Brian for all your assistance, you are a True gentleman and kind person-best wishes and God bless you and your family.

Question: I was convicted of third offense DUI in 2001 received a hardship license in 2004 with no interlock. I was told 8 years for DWI and 4 years habitual traffic offender. I went for my full time license in March of 2013. The Registry hearing officer told me that I was eligible for my full time license in 2010. The Registry of Motor Vehicles told me that the 12 years didn’t run consecutively. They never sent me any letter that I was eligible. So I have been driving for three extra years on a part time license. I now have to have this ignition interlock device for two more years. Is there anything that I can do to get the ignition interlock device removed sooner than 2 years?

Answer: Unfortunately, Melanie’s law requires anyone reinstating from a DUI suspension after January 1, 2006 to have the ignition interlock device if they have 2 or more operating under the influence (OUI) convictions on their records. Since you have 2 DUI convictions and you did not reinstate your license from the 2nd DUI suspension until after January 1, 2006, you’re ignition interlock required for 2 years. Although you were eligible to reinstate your license prior to January 1, 2006, you did not reinstate it. The Registry does not make exceptions to the ignition interlock device requirement for anyone who has 2 or more OUI convictions, no matter when or where the driving under the influence arrests occurred.

Ignition Interlock Device Failed Initial Start Tests

Question: I received your email address from your web site and had some questions regarding IID start-up lockouts in Massachusetts.

I have had an IID device in my vehicle for a little over a year. The device started giving me false positives on initial start-ups within the last month. In all cases, a reset of the device and an immediate re-test passed and I drove to my destination also passing ROLLING RE-TEST. I have not failed an ROLLING RE-TEST since installation of the device.

I have now received a lockout on the device due to two start-up failures. The documentation I have seen regarding start-up lockout penalties seems to be vague.

Does the RMV care about start-up lockouts?

Would you recommend a hearing to contest this lockout based on data that I blew clean before and immediately after the failure and also blew ROLLING RE-TEST clean?

If currently the RMV does not care about start-up lockouts, is it possible the requirements could change before I complete the program and this could count against me? (Much like my 1st OUI from 1983 which I regret not contesting, interesting how five years became a lifetime.)


The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles does not currently suspend or revoke licenses based on initial start failures and there is nothing in the current Massachusetts Ignition Interlock Regulations, 540 CMR 25 et seq., which provides for such action.

The Registry does, however, impose 10 year or lifetime license revocations for other infractions such missed rolling re-tests, failed rolling re-tests, and failure to have the device downloaded and maintained as required by the Ignition Interlock Program Regulations.

Ignition Interlock Device Q&A

ignition_interlock_lawyer_massachusettsQuestion: 1st OUI-8/23/93 2nd OUI 12/20/05 completed all inpatient and outpatient requirements. Was issued Cinderella (hardship license) in 2006. Due to bankruptcy, divorce and repossession I was unable to complete interlock time frame. I have not driven since 2007 and would like to appear before the Board of Appeals to inquire if my interlock requirement can be waived or a penalty other than interlock can be imposed (lengthy Cinderella, time frame etc).

Answer: No. Melanie’s Law requires that a driver use the ignition interlock device while on a hardship license and for 2 years after removal of the hardship hours. The Registry makes no exceptions to this rule.

Question: I have a questions-concern. I have not had any issues or tickets while driving but I was wondering is there any chance in the near future that I could appeal for a full time license before the projected length of suspension time which I believe is another three years plus two more with interlock device and a full time license. Also I just spoke to the people at ADS Interlock device and they’re telling me that the RMV is slapping another $30.00 per month for administrator fees on top of the already $85.00 to the Device company and $30 to the monthly download service fee = $115.00 a month plus the new $30.00 making it $145.00 that seems an awful lot for the next 5 years or so.

I would appreciate if you get back to me with anything you might know on how they are handling these.

Answer: Unfortunately, ignition interlock device fees are non-negotiable and there is nothing that can be done in this situation. Effective 02-15-13 a $ 30.00 monthly fee is in place to help finance the cost associated with administering the Ignition Interlock Program.The fee is imposed per IID customer and not for each IID equipped vehicle.

Question: I currently have the Interlock Device in my car and have been paying the monthly “calibration” fee of $91.00 per month. Today when I went for the monthly calibration of the device I was informed that beginning March 1, 2013 the RMV will be charging an extra $30.00 monthly fee that will go directly to the RMV. I have not been able to find anything about this online from the RMV but most importantly I’m wondering about the legality of this? I paid thousands of dollars in fees to the Registry over 3 years ago to reinstate my license (hardship) – my fees have been paid. How can they institute a new fee? I could almost understand it for someone that is new to the program but as I mentioned, I already paid the fee’s that were written. Any information and/or help that you may be able to give would be appreciated. I can’t believe that I am the only person thinking along these lines.  I do hope to hear from someone soon.

Answer: See above.

Question: I have failed my third rolling retest in less than two months. I started my car fine as it was a snowy commute home after going to an AA meeting.  I had to use my wiper fluid because I couldn’t see as ice and snow was building up on my windshield.  I didn’t want to get into an accident so I used the wiper fluid.  Then the rolling re test came and it said I blew a .36!  I then went to the police department and got a breathalyzer from them that said I blew a .000.  I have a printout and the Sgt. on duty made a log entry as well and gave me his card.

Answer: The client here did the right thing. He proactively took steps to show that the alcohol readings were not due to consumed alcohol. Instead, the readings were likely due to the client having inhaled the vapors from the windshield washer fluid which contains Methanol, which is an alcohol. I instructed the client to write a letter to the Ignition Interlock Unit of the Registry of Motor Vehicles, documenting in detail what happened. The Ignition Interlock Unit of the RMV does a very good job in determining whether alcohol readings are consistent with consumed alcohol or due to some other case. However, the burden is on the IID user to provide exculpatory information.

Question: I got my first DUI in New Hampshire when I was attending College. I reinstated my license and completed all I had to for punishments and reinstated my license in both states. After a while, years and years I got a second DUI in Massachusetts, I obviously had a problem with alcohol. I payed all my dues and completed ALL requirements of classes to my suspension. I have not had a sip of alcohol in FIVE years, also I never got in any bit of trouble since that 2nd DUI. It has been almost eight years since that second DUI. I have moved on with my life and I am now 8 months pregnant. I need to drive again and reinstate my license in Massachusetts. I know of the IID device, that sounds so expensive as well as scary to  me due to all its regulations. What is your advice please? If I move to Connecticut can I obtain a drivers license there. I am all cleared with Mass. Registry but would it be easier to just move to CT.? I know this is a shot in the dark, but I will please appreciate any help or advice at all you can give me PLEASE!

Answer: The Registry requires interlock for all repeat offenders who are reinstating on or after January 1, 2006, the effective date of the ignition interlock portion of Melanie’s Law. In some cases, it may be possible to get a non-resident IID waiver. However, if you apply for and are granted a waiver from the ignition interlock requirement, you cannot drive in Massachusetts. The only way that you will ever be able to legally operate in Massachusetts is to have the IID installed in your vehicle for at least 24 months, there are no exceptions to this mandatory requirement.

Question: had 2 DUIs in 2009 never was stopped for drunk driving just admitted to it they where both in 2009 months from each other i am attempting to get my license back I am taking the NSC driver course on Saturday its already been paid for my question is do I still need a breathalyzer installed in my car since this was almost 4 years ago to date that I was stopped twice once for insurance issues and once for non payment of court fees because I was unemployed as I was a CDL truck driver back then.

Answer: Pursuant to Melanie’s Law, you are IID required.

Question: I live in Texas and I am on probation for my 4th DWI. I have had an interlock device for the 13 months and have never had a violation nor a warning; however, for the first time, I received a WARN and did not know what it meant…thinking that the machine was faulty…so rather than starting the vehicle I immediately called SMART START. My daughter has used hand sanitizer as we do quite often in the car but apparently this time it affected the blower.

I am concerned as to what my consequences will be when I plainly state the truth–because I know they have “hear it all” so to speak. Will this result in a probation violation?

Answer: Not being admitted to practice law in Texas, I am unable to answer this question. However, the most popular brand of hand sanitizer contains 67% ethylanol which is the exact same alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. I have successfully defended clients who have had ignition interlock violations caused by hand sanitizer.