IGNITION INTERLOCK AND EMPLOYMENT-RELATED DRIVING PERMIT REQUIREMENTS FOR ALCOHOL—RELATED OFFENSES IN NEW YORK, MASSACHUSETTS AND RHODE ISLAND
By: James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst
You asked if New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have any requirements that allow drivers' license suspensions for drunk driving to be adjusted through the use of ignition interlock devices. You also wanted to know if suspensions may be adjusted to allow for employment related driving in these states. For purposes of comparison, we have included information on Connecticut law regarding these two subjects.
All four states have laws regarding the use of ignition interlock devices either as additional sanctions for alcohol-related offenses or as sentencing alternatives. In Connecticut, operation with an ignition interlock can be imposed as an alternative to serving the entire license suspension period the law imposes on second and third time offenders for driving under the influence of alcohol. An ignition interlock requirement can also be imposed by a judge as a condition of release on bail, probation, or participation in the pretrial alcohol education program without regard to whether the offender has been adjudicated on the charge.
In New York, courts may impose an ignition interlock requirement as a condition of probation following conviction but it does not modify the period of license suspension. The court must impose an ignition interlock requirement following a second or third conviction within five years. In Massachusetts, the law authorizes imposition of an ignition interlock requirement if a court orders it or if the person has been convicted for a second or subsequent time. The requirement applies during the period the person may be driving under a hardship license and for two years after the driver's license is reinstated. Rhode Island ignition interlock provisions apply only to repeat offenders and only if the blood-alcohol content of the offender was below 0.15%. It appears that the court can impose the requirement in lieu of part of the possible license suspension as long as a specified period of it has been served.
Connecticut issues a special driving permit for employment purposes for some drivers whose licenses have been suspended for a variety of reasons, including driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, certain offenders are automatically ineligible. The permit allows driving only for employment purposes, not for educational or medical reasons.
Massachusetts issues a hardship license only after the offender's court case has been settled. A specific period of the driver's license suspension must be served before the person is eligible for the hardship license. The minimum suspension period varies by whether it is a first, second, third, or fourth time offense for driving under the influence. A hardship license is not available for a fifth offense. The hardship license allows driving for employment, educational, or medical purposes.
New York issues a conditional license provided the offender participates and completes the state's Drinking Driver Program. The conditional license has the broadest scope of any of the states in that it covers, employment, educational, medical, child care, and other activities and allows up to three-hours of driving each week not related to any of these purposes.
Rhode Island has no hardship licensing provisions.
Under Connecticut law, a court can order anyone who has been arrested for a violation of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI), second degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, or second degree assault with a motor vehicle not to operate a vehicle unless it is equipped with an ignition interlock device as a condition of release on bail, probation, or for granting the offender's application to participate in the pretrial alcohol education program (CGS § 14-227j). This broad authority applies for any arrest, even for a first offense. The condition can be imposed before the alleged offender is tried for the offense.
In addition to this authority, under another law, ignition interlocks can be required for repeat offenders as an alternative to a portion of the mandatory license suspension. If someone is convicted of violation of Connecticut's DUI law for a second time within a 10-year period, the law requires a three-year mandatory driver's license suspension. However, as long as the second offense occurred in Connecticut, the offender can apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for permission to operate only ignition interlock-equipped motor vehicles in lieu of serving the second and third years of the license suspension. This alternative is not available if the second offense occurs in another state however. If the second offense occurs in another state, the entire three-year license suspension must be served (CGS § 14-227a (g) and (i)). The ignition interlocks alternative is also not available if (1) the offender is under age 21 or (2) the offense involved driving under the influence of drugs rather than alcohol.
The legislature recently changed the law to provide a possible ignition interlock alternative for third offenders as well. Until passage of PA 07-167, someone convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs for a third time within 10 years was subject to a permanent revocation of license. However, the offender could apply to DMV after ten years for reversal or reduction of the revocation. PA 07-167 changes the law to allow someone who has served at least six years of the permanent revocation to request a DMV hearing for the purpose of reducing or reversing the revocation. The commissioner must make a determination that a reduction or reversal of the license revocation will not endanger public safety or welfare before granting relief and the applicant must prove that he has successfully completed an alcohol education and treatment program and has not been convicted of any alcohol- or drug-related offenses during the preceding six years. If the commissioner grants relief from the revocation, he must require the person to operate only ignition-interlock equipped vehicles from the date the relief is granted until 10 years have passed since the date the license was revoked (CGS § 14-111(k)(2), as amended by PA 07-167 § 41).
Special Operator's Permit for Employment Purposes
Under certain circumstances, someone whose driver's license has been suspended (not just for an alcohol-related offense) can apply to DMV for a special driving permit to drive to the extent necessary to properly perform his business or profession. This work driving permit provision does not apply if the persons' suspension was due to driving while already under license suspension or for failure to appear in court to answer the charge. The work permit also is not available (1) if the reason for the person's current suspension was for refusing to take a blood-alcohol test and he has previously been suspended for a test refusal (2) the person has previously been granted a work permit in connection with and alcohol-related license suspension, or (3) the suspension is for a violation of second degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle or second degree assault with a motor vehicle, both of which are offenses involving operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. There are also other grounds for denial of a work driving permit based on the applicant's driving history (CGS § 14-37a).
New York law permits, but does not require, courts to impose an ignition interlock requirement as a condition of probation following conviction for DUI and other alcohol-related driving offenses. However, the ignition interlock requirement does not modify any license suspension sanction that may be imposed. The law specifically states that “Imposition of an ignition interlock condition shall in no way limit the effect of any period of license suspension or revocation set forth by the commissioner or the court.” (Vehicle & Traffic Law, § 1198) Under a second law, the court must impose the ignition interlock requirement whenever a person has been convicted of DUI for a second or third time within five years. The requirement applies during the period of license revocation applied to the offender and for any additional period after the revocation that the court determines (Vehicle & Traffic Law, § 1193 (1-a)(c)).
The law was recently modified to, among other things, apply on a statewide basis (Laws of New York, 2007, Chapter 669). The prior law only applied in certain specified counties. The recent law also made the ignition interlock requirement apply to any vehicle the person owns or operates rather than only to those he operates on a regular basis. Finally, it narrowed an exclusion for vehicles a person's employer owns to apply the exception only when usage occurs in the course and scope of the person's employment.
New York law provides for a “conditional license” for certain drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked for alcohol- or drug-impaired driving violations. To qualify for a conditional license, the person must participate in and successfully complete the state's 16-hour Drinking Driver Program. The program includes classroom education, screening, and, if warranted, evaluation and treatment. The program is not available for someone whose violation involved operating a commercial motor vehicle (Vehicle and Traffic Law, § 1196(7)).
Someone who is granted a conditional license may drive:
1. to and from work, and during work if driving is part of the job;
2. to and from classes or activities at an accredited school or college;
3. to transport the person's child to and from a child care facility or school when necessary to maintain employment;
4. to and from a class or activity that is required as part of the rehabilitation program;
5. to and from a motor vehicle office to transact business relating to the conditional license;
6. to or from court-ordered probation activities;
7. for medical examinations or treatment for the license holder or a member of the household, as certified in writing by the physician; and
8. for a three consecutive hour time period each week chosen by the program administrator on a day the person is not engaged in usual employment or vocation.
There are four circumstances under which someone may be required to operate with an ignition interlock device (M.G.L.A, 90 § 24 1/2).
1. If a court orders it for any reason for a period it specifies.
2. Following a second or subsequent conviction for DUI and the offender is eligible for a hardship license (see below). The person must use the ignition interlock for the length of the hardship license and for an additional two years after the driver's license is reinstated.
3. Following a second or subsequent conviction for DUI and the offender is eligible for license reinstatement. The person must use the ignition interlock for two years after the license is reinstated.
4. If a court reinstates the driver's license following the minimum five year license suspension for a blood alcohol test refusal. (This sanction is generally applicable when the person refuses to take the test and has two prior DUI offenses.) The ignition interlock must be used for at least two years.
If an ignition interlock is required, it must be present on all vehicles the offender owns, leases, or operates, including an employer's vehicle.
Massachusetts law allows someone whose license is suspended or revoked as a result of a DUI offense to apply for a hardship license. The license is not available until the court case has been settled. At least part of the required license suspension must be served before a hardship license will be granted. The period depends on the number of prior offenses. One type of hardship license allows the person to travel for employment or educational purposes, or for medical treatments. There is a second type of license that may be issued for “general hardship” but it requires more of the suspension period to be served before it can be issued.
If it is a first offense, the person must serve three months of the required one year suspension before becoming eligible for a hardship license for purposes of driving for employment or education purposes. A conditional license for general hardship is available after six months of the suspension is served.
The required license suspension is two years for a second offense. The offender can get an employment/education hardship license after one year is served and a general hardship license after 18 months.
The required license suspension period is eight years for a third offense. The offender can qualify for an employment/education hardship license after serving two years of the suspension. He can qualify for a general hardship license after serving four years of the suspension.
The required license suspension is 10 years for a fourth offense. The offender may qualify for an employment/education hardship license after serving five years of the suspension. He can qualify for a general hardship license after serving eight years of the suspension.
A slightly different set of procedures apply if the person has a previous driving under the influence offense, but it occurred more than 10 years in the past.
As noted above, an ignition interlock device is required during the period of operation under a hardship license if there are two or more DUI offenses on the record.
A hardship license allows the person to drive for a period of 12 hours daily and is valid seven days a week. The specific 12-hour period for which the license is valid depends on the determination made by the hearing officer based on the documentation the applicant provides. There are a number of eligibility criteria including certification of compliance with probation and documentation showing completion of any required treatment program.
Rhode Island's ignition interlock requirements apply to repeat offenders only. For the ignition interlock to apply, the offender's blood-alcohol level either must not exceed 0.15% or must not be known (G.L.R.I. § 31-27-2 and 31-27-2.8).
If a person is convicted for a second time within five years and his blood-alcohol level was less than 0.15% or was not determined, his license must be suspended for from one year to two years. In this case, the sentencing judge may prohibit him from operating a motor vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock device for a period of one year to two years following completion of his sentence.
For a third offense committed within five years with a blood-alcohol content of less than 0.15%, the law requires a license suspension of two to three years. The sentencing judge may require use of an ignition interlock for up to two years following completion of sentence. Thus it appears that in sentencing the offender in either of these instances, the judge can incorporate an ignition interlock order instead of sentencing the person to the maximum period of suspension.
If an offender's blood alcohol level is 0.15% or more, the suspension period is mandatory (two years for a second offense and three years for a third or subsequent offense) and an ignition interlock alternative is not available.
Rhode Island law does not contain any provisions for hardship licensing.