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Understanding Ignition Interlock Devices

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Ignition Interlock Devices or Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Devices (BAIID) have been around for years. They were first codified into Michigan Law as far back as March 30, 1988 MCL 257.625k. On October 1, 1999, all restricted licenses ordered by the Michigan Secretary of State were required to have a Ignition Interlock Device for not less than one year MCL 257.322. Between October 1, 1999 and October 31, 2010, the Secretary of State Driver License Appeal Division (DLAD), later known as Driver Appeal and Assessment (DAAD) issued restricted licenses, which only required use of the Ignition Interlock Devices for the first year. A person driving on a restricted license issued from DLAD/DAAD could then continue to drive on a restricted bases without the ignition interlock device until he or she went back before the Secretary of State. After October 31, 2010, any restricted licenses issued by DLAD/DAAD were required to have the ignition interlock device for the entire duration of the restricted interlock device MCL 257.322a. This also included anyone that had previously had a restricted license, but came before DLAD/DAAD for a violation hearing after October 31, 2010. Interlock providers had discretion from October 1, 1999 through February 11, 2011 on which violations to report to the Secretary of State. If the Petitioner was able to provide documentation to the interlock providers, which disproved the violation, then they would not report the alleged violation. After February 11, 2011, The manufacturer, installer, or service providers of an ignition interlock device was required to report any major or minor violation of the device R 257.313a(6).


It is helpful to know some of the definitions to under the issues. A “Major Violation” means any of the following during a monitoring period if the ignition interlock device is a requirement of a restricted license issued under MCL 257.322(6) of the act: 1) A rolling retest violation (failing to provide a sample within five (5) minutes of being requested), 2) The petitioner is issued a permit under MCL 257.625g of the act (new drunk driving arrest), 3) The petition is convicted of violating MCL 257.625l of the act (a misdemeanor conviction for prohibited conduct on the BAIID), 4) Servicing of the ignition interlock device has been tampered with or circumvented or that there was an attempt to tamper with or circumvent ignition interlock device, 5) Three minor violations, 6) The ignition interlock device is removed without an order from the department authorizing removal of it, or 7) Operating any motor vehicle without a properly installed ignition interlock device R 257.301a. A “Minor Violation” means any of the following during a monitoring period: 1) After the ignition interlock device has been installed for at least 2 months, 3 start-up failures, or 2) The petitioner fails to report to the service provider for monitoring within 7 days of his or her scheduled service date R 257.301a. “Circumvent” means to do, or attempt to do any of the following to start a vehicle without taking and passing a start-up test: 1) Use a bogus or filtered breath sample, 2) Use an electronic bypass or override mechanism to start a vehicle, 3) Push start or hot wire a vehicle, or 4) Use any other method to bypass or override the ignition interlock to start a vehicle.


Many of the individuals ordered to have the ignition interlock device are installing these devices on older vehicles. Social and economical factors such as limited employment opportunities for individuals without a valid driver license combined with greatly increased insurance rates for a person with multiple drunk driving convictions also contribute to the purchase of an older vehicle upon receiving a restricted license from DLAD. An additional factor is that a person with two or more drunk driving convictions, and no prior insurance coverage is looking at paying in excess of seventeen hundred dollars ($1,700) for Personal Liability and Property Damage (PLPD) insurance for six months.

Vehicles five to ten (5-10) years or older, have a higher percentage of electrical problems with an ignition interlock device, which can lead to a dead battery. If you have to replace a battery, jump start a battery, or disconnect a battery as part of an automotive repair, the ignition interlock device will report the event as an attempt to tamper/circumvent the device. Prior to February 11, 2011, the service providers would review the work order and sales receipts of the petitioners to determine if there was a legitimate excuse for the tamper/circumvent reported event. If they found the event was excusable, then they would not report it to the Secretary of State. However, due to R 257.301a, they no longer have the discretion to make that decision. Though the Secretary of State is supposed to screen these events, most reports still result in a revocation and a minimum two (2) month wait until the petitioner can have a hearing. With older vehicles this can repeat itself for a number of times before a petitioner can accumulate the necessary twelve (12) months of ignition interlock to apply for a removal of the device.

The number of hearings dedicated to violations of ignition interlock devices have risen dramatically since February 11, 2011, which has further complicated the process of restoring a petitioner’s driving privileges. More time is spent during the license restoration hearing addressing the mechanical issues, then addressing a petitioner’s sobriety. Assuredly, this pattern of unnecessary reported events has not gone unnoticed by the Secretary of State, but with a dwindling state budget, they are finding it difficult to justify having a Hearing Officer dedicated to screening the violations before any action is taken.

As it stands now, a major violation for tampering/circumventing that happened in March would not addressed by the Secretary of State until May by a notice of revocation, because the ignition interlock devices are only downloaded once every two (2) months. A hearing on the reinstatement of the revocation would not be schedule for another two (2) months. All of this as a result of a mechanic violation for which the petitioner could not have avoided or controlled.

Possible Solutions

A better plan of action would be to schedule show cause hearings, which would require a petitioner to show cause why their restricted driving privileges should not be revoked for tampering/circumventing. There are no known statistics for the number of tampering/circumventing attributed to mechanical issues versus attempts to bypass the machine, but my experience leads me to believe the attempts to bypass the machine are overwhelmingly a small percentage of the reported events. Under this option, a petitioner would have the ability to defend themselves before action could be taken against their driving privileges.

Another possible solution would be to change tampering/circumventing to a minor violation. If this option were to be used, then a person would have to accumulate at least three (3) events of tampering/circumventing before any action would be taken against their restricted driving privileges. Logistically, anyone actually trying to bypass the ignition interlock device by disconnecting the battery, jump starting the vehicle or otherwise would be caught by the rolling retest requirement every 15-20 minutes. Therefore under either plan the safety of the public would not be impacted.