EVERYTHING COLORADO DRIVERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT IGNITION INTERLOCK CIRCUMVENTION
The purpose of an Interlock device is not just to allow an individual with a revoked license to get back on the road sooner. The devices also protect the public by keeping a driver with a prior DUI conviction from getting behind the wheel while after they have been drinking. With this in mind, it stands to reason that circumventing an Interlock is a serious infraction, with serious penalties.
WHAT IS INTERLOCK CIRCUMVENTION AND TAMPERING?
Colorado law prohibits anyone (not just Interlock-restricted drivers) from tampering with an Interlock device. Tampering includes disabling, bypassing, or interfering with the device, or assisting someone else in doing so. A restricted driver can be charged with tampering if he or she operates a vehicle with a device the driver knows has been tampered with, even if the restricted driver does not do the tampering him or herself.
Interlock manufacturers design the devices to make tampering difficult, and, in many cases, the device will detect when someone attempts to alter the electronics. If the device reports any evidence of tampering, the inspector must advise the DMV within five days, and loss of driving privileges is likely to result.
Circumvention occurs when an Interlock-restricted driver operates a vehicle that is not equipped with an Interlock device or improperly operates an Interlock-equipped vehicle. Circumvention includes driving someone else’s car or asking a non-intoxicated friend to provide a breath sample. Like tampering, circumvention is a Class 1 Traffic Misdemeanor. A law enforcement officer issuing a citation for circumvention is authorized to confiscate the restricted driver’s license and submit a violation report to the Colorado DMV in order to prevent the restricted driver from further operating the vehicle.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR INTERLOCK CIRCUMVENTION OR TAMPERING?
As mentioned above, Interlock circumvention and tampering are Class 1 Traffic Misdemeanors, and either charge comes with serious penalties. A conviction for either results in ten days to twelve months jail time, fines of between $300 and $1,000, or both. Additionally, upon a conviction, the DMV will revoke the restricted license, with the revoked driver ineligible for reinstatement for one year or the remaining period of restraint imposed prior to the issuance of the restricted license, whichever is longer.
Charges of Interlock circumvention are particularly difficult to defend because the statute does not permit plea bargaining unless the prosecuting attorney represents to the court that the prosecution would be unable to present a prima facie case for conviction at trial. That is, a defendant charged with circumvention cannot plea down to a lesser offense unless the prosecutor is willing to admit that there is insufficient evidence to lead to a conviction for circumvention.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH INTERLOCK CIRCUMVENTION?
Anyone facing charges of circumventing or tampering with an Interlock device should retain an experienced attorney as soon as possible. If there is any question as to whether circumvention actually occurred, the criminal court is the place to contest the charge. You cannot contest a license revocation with the DMV if you have been convicted criminally, so fighting these charges on the front end is critical if you want any hope of retaining driving privileges. Having an experienced Colorado DUI attorney identify the weak points in the prosecution’s case and advocate on your behalf at trial can be the difference between a successful defense and losing driving privileges for a year or more (not to mention fines and even jail time).
A driver whose Interlock-restricted license has been revoked due to a conviction or guilty plea can request a subsequent DMV hearing. However, by law, the matters which can be raised with the DMV are limited to whether the revocation should be sustained and for how long it should last. The hearing officer has little discretion; if a driver is convicted of Interlock circumvention, the DMV is required to revoke the restricted license. And if a criminal court has already determined that the circumvention occurred, the DMV will be bound by that ruling. Often times drivers are revoked by the DMV for interlock circumvention or tampering prior to being convicted, as a result, of the law enforcement officer submitted the violation report to the DMV. If a driver is revoked based on an administrative finding, it is important for the driver to request a hearing to contest that revocation.
Interlock restrictions are intended to promote the safety of the driver and the public at large, and Interlock circumvention puts both the driver and other motorists or pedestrians at risk. For the driver, that risk includes serious criminal penalties and loss of driving privileges. But, in some cases, a restricted driver could be charged with circumvention unfairly. When that occurs, it is vital that the driver retain a competent DUI attorney to undertake the defense.