Mass. Ignition Interlock Law Declared Constitutional

On August 24, 2009, in the case of Joseph W. Gordon v. Mass. Registry of Motor Vehicles, the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled that Melanie’s Law is constitutional. Specifically, Gordon challenged the part of Melanie’s Law  that requires individuals with two or more DUI convictions, who seek a new  Mass. license or a reinstatement of a suspended or revoked license, to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on all vehicles they own, lease, or operate. Once installed on a motor vehicle, the user must blow into the IID in order to start the vehicle’s. The IID will not allow a vehicle to start if it detects a blood alcohol concentration level over a preset limit of .02.

Gordon was eligible to seek license reinstatement on December 17, 2005. He applied for the reinstatement on January 3, 2006, a few days after Melanie’s Law went into effect. The RMV refused to reinstate Gordon’s license without him having an IID installed on his vehicle. The Registry revoked Gordon’s Mass. Hardship License when he did not have the IID installed, as Melanie’s Law requires.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court determined that IID requirement of Melanie’s Law “does not violate Gordon’s constitutional protection against ex post facto laws.” The Court further determined that the ignition interlock requirement was no “double jeopardy.” The Court also ruled that citizens do not have fundamental right to a driver’s license and all that is required to satisfy substantive due process rights is a rational basis for the license regulation. Here, there was a rational basis for the ignition interlock restriction.

This case reiterates that ignition interlock devices are required for all second or subsequent DUI offenders whose licenses were suspended on or after January 1, 2006. It does not matter if the person, like Gordon, was eligible to reinstate after January 1, 2006. If the license reinstatement occurred after that date, use of the ignition interlock device is mandatory. Basically, if you are legally required to have interlock, there is no way around it. Neither the Mass. Registry nor the Board of Appeal will give you relief from ignition interlock requirements.