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Massachusetts Laws on Alcohol Ignition Interlock Devices

If You have 2 or more OUI convictions, you will need to have an Alcohol Detecting Ignition Interlock Device installed in your car as a condition of driver's license reinstatement or Hardship License.

That's the bottom line. If you are getting your license back after a 2nd OUI condition, The Registry will require you have one of these devices installed.

It doesn't matter how long ago your convictions were, if you are just getting your license back now, that's the rule that they are enforcing, and there are no known ways around this.

The Registry of Motor Vehicles has been interpreting this new law as harshly as possible. They are claiming that even those convicted of a 2nd or subsequent OUI offense well before Melanie's Law was passed are subject to the Ignition Interlock device requirement. I am getting a lot of calls from people who fall in this category. If your license suspension is ending, this could easily impact you.  

It's not fair, and the Registry should reverse this decision immediately. Unfortunately, there isn't anything I can do to help with this. I have not found a way to help anyone get around this, nor has any other OUI lawyer that I know.

- Attorney Russell Matson

MA Ignition Interlock Device Requirements

"Melanie’s Law"

The Act Increasing Penalties For Drunk Drivers in the Commonwealth, also known as “Melanie’s Law,” went into effect on October 28, 2005. Its purpose, as suggested by its name, is to enhance the penalties and administrative sanctions for Operating Under the Influence (OUI/DUI) offenders in Massachusetts.

One of the provisions of Melanies Law requires that Ignition Interlock Devices be used both by drivers with a hardship license and by drivers whose licenses are eligible for reinstatement if they have two or more DUI/Drunk Driving/OUI convictions.

In conjunction with this new law, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) is also changing its policy regarding who is eligible for a hardship license. To be eligible for a hardship license, you must now be able to present proof that you do not have access by public transportation to your required destination. See my hardship license page and sample letter.

What Is An Ignition Interlock Device?

Guardian Interlock AMS2000 Device

An Ignition Interlock Device is a handheld breath-alcohol monitoring device (approximately the size of a cell phone) that is electronically connected to a vehicle’s ignition. Before starting your vehicle, the device requires you to take and pass a breath test.

The device will not allow the ignition to start if it detects a BAC of above .02. For most people, that is one drink. It also requires you to take retests while you are operating the vehicle.

Who Needs An Ignition Interlock Device?

There are two possible scenarios in which you need to use an Ignition Interlock Device: 

  1. If you have 2 or more OUI convictions and are eligible for a hardship license, you must use the device for the length of the hardship license. You must also use the device for an additional 2 years after your license is reinstated.
  2. If you have 2 or more OUI convictions and are eligible for license reinstatement, you must use the device for 2 years after your license is reinstated. This 2-year period is in addition to any time you may have used the device with a hardship license.

The Ignition Interlock Device must be used in every registered vehicle that you own, lease, or operate (including your employer’s vehicle). A restriction will be added to your license making it illegal to operate a vehicle that is not equipped with a device.

If you do not have the device installed in your vehicle(s), you will not be eligible for a hardship license and you will not be allowed to have your license reinstated. If you don't own a car, but borrow one from your friend, roommate, parents, etc, that vehicle must be equipped with the device or you will not be given a driver's license.

Operator’s Responsibilities

Upon being notified that you need an Ignition Interlock Device, you are responsible for all of the following:

  • Installation - You must contact a vendor and schedule an installation.
  • Payment - You must pay the vendor all of the required leasing and maintenance fees. The device costs around $200 to install, and monthly maintenance fees are $85 per month.
  • Maintenance visits - You must return to the vendor within 30 days for your scheduled maintenance and data upload.
  • Proper usage - You must follow all of the rules and guidelines you are given for using the device and you must never tamper with or try to circumvent the use of the device.

Minimum Vehicle Requirements For Using An Ignition Interlock Device 

In order for an Ignition Interlock Device to be installed, your vehicle must have a 12-volt electrical system and it must be in good running order. Check with an Ignition Interlock Device vendor for more details.

The Ignition Interlock Device will not be installed on motorcycles.

How Do I Get An Ignition Interlock Device Installed In My Vehicle?

  1. Visit a Mass RMV Hearings Officer for an informational visit. The Hearings Officer will explain the criteria you must meet to get an Ignition Interlock Device. 
    At this meeting, the Hearings Officer will give you paperwork that you must complete. You will be required to sign a notarized affidavit declaring that you will drive only a vehicle with an Ignition Interlock Device. Also, all licensed drivers in your household will be required to sign notarized affidavits declaring that they will not allow you to drive a vehicle without an Ignition Interlock Device or help you bypass the device in any way.
  2. Submit the completed paperwork to the Registry Hearings Officer. If you meet the criteria, you will be approved for installation of the device.
    Do not have an Ignition Interlock Device installed before you have received approval from a Hearings Officer.
  3. Call an Ignition Interlock Device vendor who is certified with the state of Massachusetts (see Ignition Interlock Device vendor section) to make an installation appointment. At your appointment, you will be required to present proof of identity. The vendor will install the device in your vehicle and will give you detailed instructions on how to use and maintain the device.
  4. After the device has been installed, you must return to the Hearings Officer. The Hearings Officer will confirm the installation and will complete the license restriction process. A "Z" restriction will be added to your driver's license.

How Does The Interlock Device Work? 

Once the device is installed, it must be used as follows:

1 Turn on the ignition and wait for the device to display the word "BLOW," indicating that you need to take an initial breath test.

2. Blow into the device for a few seconds. If you pass the initial breath test, the device will display the word "PASS" and your vehicle will start.

If you fail the test (blood alcohol concentration of greater than .02), the device will display the word "FAIL" and you will not be able to start your vehicle. You will then need to wait for your blood alcohol concentration to decrease before you take another test.

3. After the vehicle has started, you will be required to take rolling re-tests at random intervals while operating the vehicle. When it is time for a rolling re-test, the device will beep and you will have five minutes to take the test. You can take the rolling re-test while driving, but it is recommended that, if it is safe and legal to do so, you pull over to the side of the road (on some roads this is illegal).

If you do not take the rolling re-test, or if you turn off the ignition before taking the rolling re-test, this will be considered a missed test. Do not forget to retest as soon as is reasonable when you hear the beep.

Note: The device will never shut your engine off after it has been started.

The Ignition Interlock Device records all of your test results and all of your vehicle activity. Within 30 days, you will need to return to the vendor for a monthly maintenance visit (scheduled by the vendor). At this time, the vendor will upload the data from the device and transmit this data to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

If your device goes into lockout 2 times you may be in violation of your restricted license. A violation will result in a 10-year license revocation.

If your device goes into lockout due to a failed rolling re-test or because the device has been tampered with, you may receive a 10-year license revocation. A second failed rolling re-test will result in a lifetime revocation. When you receive a violation (due to two lockouts) or a lockout due to a failed rolling re-test, you are required to meet with an RMV Hearings Officer (see below for locations). The Hearings Officer will make a determination on whether or not to revoke your license.

RMV Hearings Officers 

Hearings are held on a walk-in basis, unless your notice specifies a certain date, time, and place for your hearing.

The Registry strongly recommends you arrive prior to 4:00 pm for an Ignition Interlock Device hearing.

Walk-in hearings hours are 8:30 am to 4:45 pm at the following locations:

Full Time Hearings Locations (Monday through Friday, excluding holidays): 

Boston, Brockton, Lawrence, Springfield, and Worcester

Part Time Hearings Locations (selected days): 

Beverly (Wed) Pittsfield (Wed/Thurs) Framingham (Tues/Wed) Reading (Tues/Thurs) Lowell (Mon/Wed/Fri) South Yarmouth (Mon/Tues) New Bedford (Wed) Watertown (Mon/Tues) North Attleboro (Mon/Tues/Thurs/Fri)

Note that hearings days or locations are subject to change without notice. If a hearing cannot be held for any reason at a particular location, the branch staff can direct you to the next nearest location for service.

Removal Of The Device 

If you use the Ignition Interlock Device for the required period of time and become eligible to operate a vehicle without the device, you must visit a Hearings Officer and obtain a letter stating that the device may be removed. You must then schedule an appointment with the vendor and bring the letter with you.

If your license is suspended due to Ignition Interlock Device violations, the device will be removed and you will not be allowed to operate a vehicle.

Ignition Interlock Device Vendor 

See my Interlock Vendor/Installer Page.

Call the vendor for more information about locations, payment types, or any other questions you may have.

What Could Cause Me To Lose My Driving Privileges?

If your device goes into a state of lockout, you will be given 48 hours to return to the vendor, who will upload the data and reset the device. If you do not return to the vendor within this time period, your vehicle will remain disabled and will need to be towed (at your expense) to the vendor.

If you do the following 

This number of times within this time period 

The result is

  • Fail an initial test
  • Miss a rolling re-test 
Any two occurrences during a 30 day period  Lockout
Miss a monthly maintenance appointment  Anytime  Lockout
  • Fail a rolling re-test, or
  • Tamper with the device 
Once during the entire time you have the device  Lockout and 10 year revocation

If your device goes into a state of lockout, you will be given 48 hours to return to the vendor, who will upload the data and reset the device. If you do not return to the vendor within this time period, your vehicle will remain disabled and will need to be towed (at your expense) to the vendor.


For more information about the changes to Massachusetts OUI / DUI / Drunk Driving Laws and Registry of Motor Vehicle license suspension rules as a result of Melanie's Law, or additional comments on Melanie's Law, contact Russell Matson at (781)380-7730.


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