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Ignition Interlock Violation from the Michigan Secretary of State

Home Blog Driver's License Restoration Ignition Interlock Violation from the Michigan Secretary of State

As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we regularly deal with ignition interlock violations.

A violation notice from the Michigan Secretary of State means that your previous license revocation WILL be reinstated. 

Under the rules, if the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight (OHAO) receives notice from your interlock company of an alleged violation, it must revoke your license all over again. 

This is technically called a “reinstatement of original action,” meaning the reinstatement of your 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. 

Our firm 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 dies, switched out, or even disconnected, even momentarily. 

The frustrating thing about this 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, despite following instructions, 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 didn’t work, 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 Secretary of State expects 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, most people fail to plan for what to do in the event of a “false positive.”

Until it happens.

A skipped or missed rolling retest is pretty self-explanatory; a person misses a test while the vehicle is running.

A rolling retest failure is almost always caused by eating while driving. Yeast in food (particularly bread products) is the usual culprit. 

Understandably, the hearing officers aren’t too enthused about this excuse, given that the order granting a restricted license clearly states not to eat 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 my team and I have. 

There’s a pretty good 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 isn’t 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 need to go back, like anthropologists, and show the hearing officer what happened, and otherwise prove that you didn’t drink, and deserve another chance. 

My team and I have handled and won countless ignition interlock violation cases. 

To do that, we have to go beyond our role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, and be part engineer, part mechanic, and part biologist. 

We rely on our extensive experience and skill to do things like clearly differentiate something like the much quicker dissipation (evaporation) of “mouth alcohol” (meaning something like mouthwash or yeast products that creates a false positive result) from the normal rate which the human body metabolizes beverage alcohol.

We have attended interlock vendor’s seminars to learn more specifically how these machines work, and, even more important, how they can and do malfunction. 

Most of all, we have handled more than enough violation hearings to know how these cases are decided by the individual hearing officers. Life being what it is, some hearing officers have a stronger scientific understanding than others, so knowing how to present a case to the specific person who will be deciding it matters. 

Of course, circumstantial evidence may count more with one hearing officer rather than another. 

It is important to plan for this, and it all comes together in a way that enables us to feel confident that we can provide our client with the very best level of representation in an ignition interlock violation case.

No lawyer can do more, and we will never do less.