Picture yourself enjoying Colorado’s blue sky and sunshine and reaching into your mailbox to find this little “gem”:
“Colorado Department of Revenue records indicate that your ignition interlock device has prevented the operation of a motor vehicle in three of twelve consecutive reporting periods due to excessive blood alcohol content. In accordance with CRS 42-2-132.5 the period of your driver license interlock restriction is hereby extended for an additional one (1) year from the current expiration of your restriction. If we do not receive a new lease agreement by the Order of Suspension effective (date indicated in letter) through the extended restricted licensing period, your privilege to operate a motor vehicle in Colorado will be suspended. If suspended, you must immediately surrender any driver licenses and/or permits in your possession to any driver license office.” [Credit to: Colorado Department of Revenue, Driver Control Section, Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles, Standard Letter to Respondent, Letter# dL408 (2017)]
What should you do? Panic? Ask you neighbor for advice? Sign-up for another year with that damn interlock machine? The answer is no, no, and no. You should immediately request a hearing. As of the date of this blog post, DMV ignition interlock violation hearings are backlogged 6-8 weeks just to receive a Notice of Hearing letter and you must first secure a spot on a waiting list. As soon as your name appears at the top of the waiting list, the Hearings Division will mail you a Notice of Hearing letter setting the hearing. Most of the hearings anymore are held via telephone. If at all possible an in-person hearing is typically better than a telephone hearing. However more and more hearings are being scheduled telephonically and a Respondent may not have a choice. If a hearing is requested, the Hearings Division may postpone the effective date of the extension until after the hearing. It is vitally important for a Respondent to clarify this information with the Hearings Division and determine the status of the driver’s license until the hearing.
What does 3 out of 12 reporting periods mean? This can be confusing. A “reporting period” is a month, and is defined the Code of Colorado Regulations as the first and last days of a calendar month. The violations must occur in 3 out of 12 consecutive months. The 12 months must be consecutive, the 3 months reporting violations do not need to be consecutive.
What is “excessive blood alcohol content”? Excessive alcohol content for purposes of the ignition interlock machine means a BAC of .025 or greater.
How does DMV monitor the ignition interlock device? At least every 60 days, a driver must have the interlock device inspected by the interlock company. There are 4 ignition interlock companies approved in Colorado at the current time: Guardian, Intoxalock, #1 A LifeSafer of CO, and 1A Smart Start, Inc. At this inspection, the interlock company will download the data records and forward them to DMV. An interlock provider is supposed to notify a driver at the time of inspection if there are any violations. However, a failure of the interlock company to advise a driver of any violations will not win an ignition interlock violation hearing for a Respondent.
What if a driver gets their regular unrestricted license back before violations are reported to Colorado DMV- can Colorado DMV still cause an ignition interlock extension? The short answer is yes. Even if a driver gets their unrestricted full privileges back, they can still be subjected to an ignition interlock extension for violations that occurred before the driver got their license back.
According to the Code of Colorado Regulations, if there is evidence of circumvention of an interlock device, an ignition interlock company will file a report of circumvention to the Colorado Department of Revenue. If a police officer detects circumvention of the interlock device, he/she may file a report with the Colorado Department of Revenue and may file criminal charges in the appropriate county court.
The sole issue at a hearing for an extension of an ignition interlock period is whether “lockouts” occurred in 3 of any 12 consecutive reporting periods, and if proven, to then determine the length of the extension.
A Hearing Officer may determine the following as “aggravating factors” in determining an extension period: 2 or more lockouts in 1 month, a prior extension for lockouts, a pattern of readings consistent with attempted drinking and driving, any BAC readings of .05 or higher, lockouts in more than 3 of the 12 consecutive months at issue, and any lockouts in the last 6 months of an ignition interlock lease agreement.
A Hearing Officer may determine the following as “mitigating factors” in determining an extension period: any factors the driver may submit in mitigation (obviously this is very subjective), attendance at alcohol treatment after the last lockout, only 1 lockout in each of the 3 months and no lockouts in any other months at issue, more than 1 year remaining of the interlock requirement, and alcohol readings subsequent to the last lockout indicating that the driver walked away from the vehicle and did not re-attempt to start it after consuming alcohol.
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