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How to Avoid Problems with Your Ignition Interlock Device and What to Do if You Encounter One

Oftentimes, when your license has been revoked by the Michigan Secretary of State for two or more alcohol-related driving convictions within a seven-year period, the first step to getting your license back is a restricted driver’s license which also includes an ignition interlock device, also commonly referred to as a blow-and-go. In addition to being granted a restricted license with an interlock device after appealing a revocation, you may be required to install an interlock device through a restricted license granted by a sobriety court program or after being convicted of Operating with a High Bodily Alcohol Content, commonly referred to as “superdrunk.”

An interlock device is a machine which hooks into your vehicle which requires you to provide a breath sample when the vehicle is started and also requires you to provide breath samples periodically while the vehicle is being operated. In Michigan, there are currently six vendors licensed by the state who are approved to install interlock devices. They are: Alcolock MI, Inc., Alcohol Detection Systems-ADS, Intoxalock, Draeger, Inc., Smart Start Michigan, and #1A Lifesaver of Michigan.

Unfortunately, many people have problems with their ignition interlock devices, and it is therefore critical to know what to do if that occurs. Almost always, it will be your responsibility to prove that any problem with your device was not due to you tampering with your device or consuming alcohol.

The State of Michigan categorizes interlock violations into major and minor violations. Minor violations are:

a. three startup failures after an interlock device has been installed at least two months;

or

b. failing to report to the manufacturer, installer, or service provider for monitoring within 7 days after his or her scheduled service date.

Major violations are:

a. a rolling retest violation;

b. being charged with another alcohol-related driving offense;

c. being convicted of tampering with or circumventing the device;

d. actually or attempting to tamper with or circumvent the device;

f. three minor violations in a monitoring period;

g. removing the interlock device without an order authorizing removal; or

h. operating a vehicle without an ignition interlock device.

If you have a problem with your interlock device, it is critical to know what to do. The Secretary of State will expect you to know how to handle a problem with your interlock device, and you will be responsible for making sure you follow through with what they expect. The following tips will help you avoid problems with your interlock device and will help you resolve issues that may occur:

1. Never leave your vehicle running and unattended, even momentarily. If you fail to provide a timely rolling re-test for any reason, it is a major interlock violation. Your original revocation/denial will be reinstated and you will lose your license.

2. Never exit your vehicle without first making sure that a rolling re-test has not been requested. Arrive at your destination, physically look at the ignition interlock device, and then turn off the ignition. You should look at the device again before exiting. Do not turn your vehicle off after a rolling re-test has been requested without providing a breath sample within the allotted five-minute time frame. Failure to provide a rolling re-test is a major violation. Your original revocation/denial will be reinstated and you will lose your license.

3. Periodically start your vehicle, even if it is not being driven every day, to ensure that the battery remains charged. If your battery dies, use a tow service or AAA to obtain a jumpstart and send the receipt and a letter of explanation to the Department of State immediately after doing so.

4. You and/or a repair facility must contact the interlock company before making any repairs to your vehicle. Provide notice to the interlock company of the type of repairs and the dates they are scheduled to be completed.

5. Obtain documentation (legible, dated, and signed receipts) for any repairs done to your vehicle. This includes tow receipts and receipts from auto stores. These receipts and a letter of explanation that is notarized, dated, and signed by you should be sent to the interlock company immediately after repairs are completed. Make sure it is clear on the face of the receipt if a mechanic has possession of the vehicle for longer than one day.

6. Receipts with an accompanying letter of explanation should be scanned, uploaded as an attachment, and emailed to MDOS-BAIIDDocumentation@michigan.gov within five days of repairs being completed. Note that this email is used solely to submit documents and that the Department of State will not respond to emails.

7. Never eat or drink anything (other than plain water) within 15 minutes of providing a breath sample. Be especially careful if you use mouthwashes or cold medications such as Listerine, Scope, or Nyquil. Many contain alcohol, ranging from about 20% to 30%. You should avoid using any products that contain alcohol. If alcohol is detected by the interlock device, you should rise out your mouth with water and provide a second sample within five minutes. Do not just walk away from the interlock device. It is advisable that you keep a bottle of water in your vehicle. Ask a pharmacist if you are unsure if a product contains alcohol.

8. If you have a positive alcohol result or you miss a test or have a power loss, it is critical to obtain an objective test to prove you were not drinking. The best test to get is an Ethyl Glucuronide (ETG) test from a toxicology lab within 24 hours of the alleged violation. Note that doing so will not necessarily avoid a reinstated revocation/denial if a major violation occurs. However, the test results may be taken into consideration in the event an administrative hearing is scheduled. Remember, the burden is always on you to prove you have continued to maintain abstinence and have not relapsed.

9. Limit the people who have access to your vehicle. Although your ignition interlock device contains a camera that will take your picture every time you submit a sample, you are responsible for all violations of the interlock device. Action will be taken against you if another individual misses a re-test, provides a breath sample that includes alcohol, or otherwise violates the interlock agreement.

10. If you change interlock companies, notify the Department of State within seven days of the removal of your first interlock company’s interlock device and the installation of the new company’s device by mailing the new installation certificate to the Department of State.

If you encounter a problem with your interlock device, contact us today. In many cases, we can prevent your license from being re-revoked and denied, but it is critical not to wait to address any issues that arise.