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Massachusetts Ignition Interlock Law


Melanie’s Law, St. 2005, c. 122, enacted on October 28, 2005, changed the law goveming the prosecution of operating under the influence offenses in Massachusetts. The provisions of Melanie’s Law requiring ignition interlock devices (“IIDs”) , went into effect on January 1, 2006.  An ignition interlock device or IID is an alcohol sensing instrument that prevents a motor vehicle from staliing if it detects a blood alcohol concentration over a preset limit.

The Massachusetts Ignition Interlock Law requires anyone with 2 or more DUI convictions on his or her record, who is reinstating, getting a hardship license, or getting a full license on or after January 1, 2006, to use a certified ignition interlock device in each and every vehicle which he or she owns, operates, or leases during the full term of any restricted hardship, work, or Cinderella license and for 2 years after getting the hardship hours removed.

The Massachusetts Legislature enacted this law to enhance public safety by preventing repeat drunk drivers from starting their vehicles if any appreciable amount of alcohol is detected. Under Massachusetts Law, the ignition interlock device set point is .02, which is very low. Any alcohol reading above a .02 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood will prevent the DUI offender from starting his or her vehicle.

Persons with a prior DUI conviction or G.L. c. 90, §24D “first offender” disposition who are entitled to have their licenses fully reinstated, must also have an lID installed for a period oftwo years, after getting any hardship hours removed from their licenses.

There are extremely harsh penalties for violating the Mass. Ignition Interlock Law, which contains 10 year lifetime license revocations for certain ignition interlock violations. For example, missed and failed rolling re-tests will be result in the driver being called in for an ignition interlock violation hearing which may result in a substantial license revocation. Likewise, tampering with, circumventing, or improperly disconnecting an ignition interlock device is a major violation. Failing to have the IID serviced, maintained, and monitored on a monthly basis is also a violation.

In Massachusetts, licenses which are ignition interlock restricted will have a “Z” restriction. The Registry chose the letter “Z” for IID restrictions because it stands for “zero tolerance” and that is exactly how the Registry enforces the interlock law in Massachusetts.

The ignition interlock provisions of Melanie’s Law have been repeatedly challenged on constitutional grounds and the courts have consistently upheld the law as constitutional. It does not violate the constitution’s prohibition against “ex post facto” laws.

It is a violation of Melanie’s Law to knowingly allow a person who has the ignition interlock restriction on his or her license to operate your vehicle if it is not equipped with an IID.  Other Melanie’s Law ignition interlock violations include disconnecting, circumventing or tampering with an IID as well as operating a vehicle without an IID when you have a “Z” restriction on your license. Also, breathing into an IID for someone whose license is interlock restricted violates Melanie’s Law.

If you have received a letter from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles accusing you of an ignition interlock violation, you could contact Attorney Brian E. Simoneau, who has an excellent track record of successfully defending his clients against ignition interlock violations. Attorney Simoneau has appealed, overturned, and reversed lifetime and 10 year license revocations for Massachusetts ignition interlock violations.

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