201712.15
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DMV Decision to Require an Ignition Interlock Device

Patrick Roland pled guilty to DWI. Although he had a prior DWI on his record, the plea bargain changed it to a “first” offense. This is a common plea bargain in DWI cases. From the prosecutor’s perspective it avoids the time and expense in taking the case to trial. The prosecutor also eliminates the risk of losing with no conviction at all. On the other hand, the advantage to the defendant is that it reduces the loss of license and avoids at least five days in jail.

DMV Decides to Require an Ignition Interlock, Even Though the Court Did Not

While the Court could have imposed an ignition interlock device, it did not. An ignition interlock is a breathalyzer attached to the ignition. In order to start the vehicle a driver must blow into the machine. He will not be able to start the car if there is any alcohol in his system.

However, while the Court chose not to require the ignition interlock device, that was not the end of it. The DMV can hold a hearing to decide if someone convicted of DWI must install an ignition interlock. In this case, a hearings office decided that Roland must use an ignition interlock for one year after he gets his license back.

DMV’S  Ignition Interlock Decision is Almost Impossible to Reverse

Roland appealed on two different grounds but the New Hampshire Supreme Court shut him down. First, the Court could not dispute the wisdom of the hearings officer’s decision. This was especially true because they did not have a transcript of the hearing. The person making an appeal is responsible for obtaining a transcript if that is necessary for the Court to decide the appeal.

Roland also argued that the DMV should not hold the hearing until closer in time to when he gets his license back. The Court said that may be a good idea, but the statute gives DMV broad discretion in deciding when to have a hearing. The legislature, not the courts, should decide when DMV must hold a hearing. Until then, DMV can use its judgment.

Make Sure You Understand All of the Potential Consequences of a Plea Bargain

The moral of the story is that courts will practically never question DMV’s ignition interlock decision. DMV does not always impose the ignition interlock. But DMV has a written policy that states the circumstances when it will impose one. The experienced DWI attorneys at Cohen & Winters always advise clients who are convicted of DWI that they may face an ignition interlock. We also attempt to minimize the chances of this happening if at all possible. And, we have extensive experience representing clients at DMV hearings when necessary.