Ignition Interlock Violation from the Michigan Secretary of State

A notice of ignition interlock violation from the Michigan Secretary of State also reinstates your previous license revocation. In other words, if the Michigan Secretary of States Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) receives notice from your interlock company of an alleged violation, it revokes your license all over again. This is technically called a “reinstatement” of the original action, meaning you’re the reinstatement of you original license revocation. These are horrible situations, and, to make matters worse, in many cases, the violation shouldn’t have been issued in the first place. I can help.

If you’ve received an ignition interlock violation, you need to take action right away. The first thing you must do is pay attention to dates, because you only have 14 days from the effective date of the reinstatement of your revocation to request a hearing to challenge the violation. If you miss that deadline, then your license will be gone for good.

While there are numerous reasons an interlock violation can be issued, 4 of the most common are:

  1. Tamper/Circumvent
  2. Initial Startup Failure
  3. Skipped (missed) Rolling Retest, and
  4. Rolling Retest Failure

Usually, a “tamper/circumvent” violation occurs when there is a power disconnect or power failure to the vehicle. This most often happens when mechanical work is done on the car, or when a battery is switched out or disconnected, even momentarily. The frustrating part is that many times, the person will have called his or her interlock company to inquire about what to do, before any work is done on the vehicle. Then, doing exactly as they were told, they still wind up violated, anyway.

Initial startup failures are often “false positives” caused by foods containing yeast, or something like mouthwash. The Secretary of State used to rely upon the interlock companies to advise a driver of the steps to take in order to properly retest after an initial positive test within a few minutes. However, this was not happening, and the hearing officers got tired of hearing the excuse, "I didn't know how to use the device/I didn't know what to do." Every order issuing a restricted license now has a section titled "Proper Interlock Use." The hearing officers expect this section of the order to be read and to be followed. Of course, as the months roll by with largely trouble-free operation of the interlock unit, the person never bothers to plan for what to do in the event of a “false positive.”

A skipped or missed rolling retest is pretty self-explanatory. A rolling retest failure is almost always caused by eating while driving. Yeast in food (particularly bread products) is the usual culprit. Though hearing officers dislike hearing this excuse because the order clearly stated to not ear or drink anything within 15 minutes of providing a breath sample.

No matter what the reason for the violation, there is no magic phone number to call at the state to just clear things up. This situation can seem almost unbelievable unless you’ve seen it as many times as I have. There’s a decent chance that, if you’re reading this, you’re in precisely this position right now. It doesn’t seem fair that you’ve done nothing wrong (and, in many cases, made the extra effort to do things right) and now you’re being violated. In that sense, this situation really is not fair, but it is what it is, and finding yourself in this predicament requires that you take intelligent and specific measures to fix it.

While many violations seem to be obvious mistakes, the state proceeds on the basis that if there is any question about what happened (and when it receives notice of a violation, there is a question), you must satisfactorily clear up any doubt. In other words, it is not a winning strategy to go into an interlock violation hearing and think you’re going to “explain” things. Instead, it becomes imperative to submit evidence that does the “explaining” for you. Even in a worst-case scenario where there is no “hard” evidence to be submitted to disprove the violation, we can at least go back, like anthropologists, and recreate what took place with a connected series of letters from various people. I’ve handled plenty of these cases where even though no single letter itself constitutes an alibi, a number of them, tied together, can form an irrefutable rebuttal to what otherwise just looks like a failed or missed test, or an unexplained disconnection of the battery.

To win these cases, I have to go beyond my role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, and be part engineer, part mechanic, and part biologist. I have had to call upon my specialized graduate training in alcohol and addiction studies numerous times in order to clearly differentiate things like the much quicker dissipation of “mouth alcohol” (meaning something like mouthwash or yeast products that give rise to a “false positive”) from the normal rate which the human body metabolizes alcohol that has been consumed after drinking.

I have attended interlock vendor’s seminars to learn more specifically how these machines work, and, even more important, how they malfunction. Most of all, I have handled more than enough violation hearings to know how these cases are decided by the state, in general, and the individual hearing officers, in particular. Some hearing officers have a stronger scientific understanding than others. By contrast, circumstantial evidence may be more important to one hearing officer than another. It is important to figure this into the dimension into the case we present. This all comes together in a way that enables me to feel confident that I can provide my client with the very best level of representation in an ignition interlock violation case.

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