Defending Minnesota Ignition Interlock Violations

Posted On December 09, 2016 by Jay Adkins

One of the most difficult hurdles our clients face is the potential loss of their license. They simply cannot afford to lose their ability to drive; their children need to be taken to school and events, they have to get themselves to work, and all of life's daily demands still exist.

Many of these people are left with only one option to drive: pay to have an Ignition Interlock device installed. The general idea is that since the device prevents the vehicle from starting unless the driver is sober, there are less public safety concerns. Therefore, once the device is installed the state will reinstate the driver's driving privileges subject to a few rules and guidelines. This invaluable tool has been used by many to continue living their day-to-day lives while their license is revoked or cancelled.

Unfortunately, there have recently been some issues with these devices that have nothing to do with alcohol consumption: false positive tests. A false positive test doesn't just prevent the car from starting, it actually is viewed as a violation of the program which results in the license revocation being extended, or even an outright cancellation of the driver's license.

We recently defeated one of these cases where the state tried to violate our client and turn her license revocation into a outright cancellation. Our client's Ignition Interlock device previously had numerous false positive tests over the stretch of a year. This is what the false positive tests looked like: the first test would show a minimal alcohol concentration, our client would then retake the test a few minutes later and the alcohol concentration would fall below the minimal threshold amount, often back to 0.00. We know this is a false positive test because such a drop in alcohol concentration would take over an hour. However, in one instance our client retook the test, and while the amount of alcohol again dropped, it did not fall far enough to go below the threshold amount. The Commissioner of Public Safety violated our client.

To challenge the violation, we pulled the device's entire usage report. We were able to show the numerous false positive tests that seemed to present a pattern of occurring every few months. The device was clearly faulty, but the Commissioner of Public Safety still wanted to sanction our client. The Commissioner of Public Safety's position can be easily understood because they don't want to admit that some of the devices, which they approved for this program, are malfunctioning.

Fortunately, the judge carefully considered all of the evidence and was not convinced that our client drank alcohol. The judge stated that the device's readings could not be trusted because of the previous false positives. In the end, the violation was thrown out along with the license cancellation! Here is a redacted version of the opinion.

Much like the DMT Datamasters, the Ignition Interlock devices are not foolproof. So, if you are given notice of an Ignition Interlock or abstinence violation it may be due to a faulty device and you should take advantage of your right to challenge the violation before a judge by contacting a competent defense attorney. Otherwise, your license will either be revoked for a longer period of time or even cancelled, even if you haven't actually violated the program.

If your license is currently cancelled or revoked, and you're interested in getting an Ignition Interlock device installed, here are all of the qualifying companies you can contact:

Intoxalock -- (877) 777-5020

Smart Start MN -- (952) 224-7050

ALCOLOCK -- (855) 855-4542

Draeger Safety Dianostics -- (800) 332-6858

LifeSafer Interlock -- (800) 745-0331

Charles Ramsay