Under Melanie’s Law, any repeat OUI offender seeking a hardship license or full license reinstatement privileges must install an ignition interlock device or (mounted in car breath testing device) into each vehicle he or she owns, leases, or operates. The Registry of Motor Vehicles will also be requiring this device as a condition of license reinstatement for anyone who has had their license suspended for five years or more because of a breathalyzer refusal and had their license reinstated by the courts.
An ignition interlock device is a handheld breath-alcohol monitoring device (approximately the size of a cell phone) that is electronically connected to a vehicle’s ignition. Before starting your vehicle, the ignition interlock device requires you to take and pass a breath test. It also requires you to take re-tests while you are operating the vehicle.
The ignition interlock device measures Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and prevents the car from starting if the driver has a BAC greater than .02. The ignition interlock user is responsible for costs associated with interlock devices averaging $125 for installation and $85 for a monthly maintenance fee. This device is a lockout device and it should not be confused with a “breathalyzer.”
Who is required to have an ignition interlock device installed?
Melanie’s Law requires any person who is issued a “new” license on or after January 1, 2006 who has had two or more OUIs, alcohol program assignments, or like offenses from other jurisdictions, to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on any vehicle they own, lease, or operate, for a minimum of two years.
In defining what constitutes the issuance of a “new” license, the RMV will require an IID for any subsequent offender who was either suspended or revoked as of January 1, 2006, or was still operating on hardship license as of that date.
If you have received a Massachusetts Hardship License, and you have 2 or more OUI convictions, you are required to have an interlock device for the length of the hardship license. You must also use the IID for an additional 2 years after your license is reinstated. This 2-year period is in addition to any time you may have used the IID with a hardship license.
Upon completion of the required period, your IID will not be authorized for removal if you had any IID infractions or violations during the past six consecutive months.
Ignition Interlock Installation Information
Upon installation of an IID, the multiple offender’s license is reinstated with a Z restriction. The Z restriction stands for Massachusetts Zero tolerance for drunk driving and informs the police that individuals with this restriction may only operate a vehicle with an Ignition Interlock Device installed. Regulations were created to establish guidelines and procedures for the certification, installation, use and maintenance of Ignition Interlock Devices. In addition, the regulations list program violations and the sanctions attached. Approximately 3,000 Interlock Devices have been installed since the program’s inception. There are currently five Ignition Interlock companies that install and maintain ignition interlock device devices throughout the Commonwealth at 30 locations.
How Do I Get an IID Installed in my Massachusetts Vehicle?
Visit a RMV Hearings Officer for a hearing. The Hearings Officer will explain the criteria for hardship or full reinstatement. Do not have an IID installed before you have received approval from a Hearings Officer.
Once you have been approved for a Mass. hardship or full reinstatement, the Hearings Officer will give you a list of certified IID vendors. You will also be given paperwork and legal statements (affidavits) that must be completed and notarized. By signing these affidavits, you certify that you, as well as each licensed driver in your household, understand that you are not allowed to drive any vehicle without an ignition interlock device and that you cannot try to bypass the ignition interlock device in any way. The penalties for these actions are included in the affidavits.
Call a certified IID vendor for an installation appointment. Do NOT plan to drive yourself to the appointment – there are no exceptions to your requirement to drive a car with an ignition interlock device. When you go to your appointment, bring proof of your identity. The vendor will install the ignition interlock device in your vehicle and will give you detailed instructions on how to use and maintain it.
Once the ignition interlock device has been installed, you must return to a Registry Hearings Officer with the completed affidavits and proof of installation. A “Z” restriction will be added to your license. This restriction means that you are only allowed to operate a vehicle equipped with an IID. At this point, you will be able to complete the license reinstatement process.
How does the Ignition Interlock Device Work?
Turn on the ignition and wait for the ignition interlock device to display instructions indicating that you need to take an initial breath test.
Blow into the IID for a few seconds. If you pass the initial breath test, the IID will display the word “pass” and your vehicle will start.
If you fail the test (blood alcohol concentration of greater than .02), the IID will display the word “fail” and you will not be able to start your vehicle. You will then need to wait for your blood alcohol concentration to decrease before you take another test.
If you fail a second time within a service period, your vehicle will go into lockout and you will need to visit your vendor.
After the vehicle has started, you will be required to take rolling re-tests at random intervals while operating the vehicle. When it is time for a rolling re-test, the IID will beep and you will have five minutes to take the test. You can take the rolling re-test while driving, but it is recommended that, if it is safe and legal to do so, you pull over to the side of the road (on some roads this is illegal). If you do not take the rolling re-test, or if you turn off the ignition before taking the rolling re-test, this will be considered a missed test.
The ignition interlock device records all of your test results and all of your vehicle activity. Within 30 days, you will need to return to the vendor for a monthly maintenance visit (scheduled by the vendor). At this time, the vendor will upload the data from the IID and transmit this data to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
If your IID goes into a state of lockout, you will be given 48 hours to return to the vendor, who will upload the data and reset the IID. If you do not return to the vendor within this time period, your vehicle will remain in a state of lockout and will need to be towed (at your expense) to the vendor.
The Ignition Interlock Violation Procedure
Under Melanie’s Law, when the Ignition Interlock service provider notifies the Registry of any of the following violations, the RMV will schedule an ignition interlock violation hearing. This hearing will be held at the RMV in Boston.
If you are found to be responsible for the violation, the Registry will revoke your license for ten (10) years up to lifetime. Obviously, this is a very serious situation. RMV Lawyers have successfully handled numerous IID cases. Do not take a chance with a lawyer who is not familiar with Massachusetts IID laws, regulations, and procedures. Ignition Interlock Violation Hearings should not be taken lightly, because they can result in very long license suspensions with no ability to get a hardship license.
Ignition Interlock Violations
Miss a Rolling Re-Rest any 2 times during a service period
Fail a rolling retest with a BAC between .02-.05 any 2 times during a service period
Fail a rolling retest with a BAC greater than .05 any one (1) time
Miss a monthly service appointment any one (1) time
Tamper with the Ignition Interlock Device any one (1) time
Remove the Ignition Interlock Device without authorization during the restriction period
Operate a vehicle not equipped with an IID anytime during the period you are required to have the IID
If your ignition interlock device registers a violation when you have not consumed alcohol, you should immediately go to a police station or hospital to obtain a comparison blood alcohol test. If you receive an ignition interlock violation notice, contact an attorney immediately.
Massachusetts Ignition Interlock Devices are notoriously unreliable. They do not use the same technology that is used in evidentiary breathalyzers and there are documented cases of IIDs registering alcohol when no alcohol is present. They are not ethanol specific. Nevertheless, the RMV usually treats interlock readings as gospel and generally fails to acknowledge the shortcomings of interlock devices. Attorney Brian E. Simoneau has successfully attacked the interlock device. Contact him to find out more.
How Much Does the Ignition Interlock Device Cost?
The ignition interlock device, which the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles requires for all second and subsequent DUI offenders, costs roughly $125 to install, and $85 a month to maintain, for a total cost of $2,290 for two years. Interlock violations can cost you the right to drive for 10 years or lifetime.