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Ignition Interlock Problems

This commentary relates to a couple problems that often arise for drivers who are required to have interlock devices installed in their automobiles. The two problems that most often arise are first, a person is stopped while driving a car that does not have the required interlock device installed; and second, the interlock company sends a notice to the Department of Motor Vehicles alleging that the interlock has been "tampered with" by the driver and/or that the driver is attempting to "circumvent" the device in one-way or another.

The first case, where the interlock restricted driver is disobeying the restriction and driving a car without an interlock, there can be serious consequences, perhaps both expected and unexpected. The driver is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor criminal offense. The person's license can be suspended and the interlock requirement extended for a period up to one additional year. And, the unexpected – the car driven can will be impounded for 30 days with an early release in only limited circumstances.

The early release circumstances are limited to cases where the driver was not the owner, or at least not the sole owner of the vehicle. In such a case, the owner or co-owner can retrieve the vehicle prior to the 30 days so long as they show proof of ownership.

Note there's once circumstance that is a defense to both the interlock requirement and to the impound requirement – the case of the true emergency. If there was a true emergency as set forth in ARS 28 – 1464, there is no violation and the vehicle may be released early. Note the interlock ignoring benefit of any true emergency would require both a real emergency and a verification that absolutely no one else is available to drive at the time. The true emergency exception would be exceedingly rarely acknowledged.

Note too the existence of other, rarer but regular grounds for early impound release that are not discussed here but are set forth in ARS 28-3512.

A second common ignition interlock problem we confront is where the interlock supervising company has submitted a notice to the Department of Motor Vehicles that the interlock has been tampered with or circumvented. It seems the interlock companies sometimes send these notices to the MVD even where they may be aware that an innocent explanation exists. Often, when a car is in for servicing of any kind, the battery may be disconnected which could cause an error message for the interlock. Other circumstances may occur as well, including tests drives during which rolling retest prompts were ignored etc.

It is important for interlock drivers to remember that in in such cases it is unlikely that the MVD will sustain the suspension or extension order even in those case where such a process is initiated. In order to impose a suspension or extension, the MVD has a fairly high and substantial burden of proof, i.e., it has to prove knowledge and intent on the part of the driver. Accordingly, driver's should schedule a hearing with MVD and explain the innocent nature of the problem. The hearing may result in the dismissal of the charge.

Categories: DUI, Ignition Interlock
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