When you refuse to take a breath alcohol test in Minnesota, you are subject to some very severe penalties, one of which is the loss of driving privilege.
Think, for a moment, what it means to be unable to drive yourself.
I stopped scheduling anything unnecessary. That included my usual weekly talk therapy sessions. I stopped going to physical therapy to manage the pain from my torn rotator cuff. I didn't go to the gym. I for certain didn't plan anything fun, unless I was invited to do something. I did make it to my job sites and the grocery store, but certainly not on my schedule or at my convenience.
For those friends and family who offered assistance and readily went out of their way for me, blessings. You have no idea how very much I appreciate what you did for me or how graciously you did it. I will not forget what it means to be shown mercy, and I will not fail again to show it to others myself.
It is very nearly unbearably humiliating to have to ask for help to even accomplish the most basic daily necessities. (Considered in context, however, with peeing in a jail cell while the world walks by, it is manageable.)
I did my research to find out what I should do in order to drive a vehicle. I could request a judicial review, but those are not very successful. I could try to find a way to work solely from home, but that's difficult. I could apply for a work permit, but I do not have a predictable schedule or even work location - and, considering I live alone, doesn't solve the management of basic things like grocery shopping or more important things like physical therapy.
What I discovered is that Interlock Program.
On the Interlock Program, all driving privilege is reinstated providing certain conditions are met. First, the Interlock Device must be installed in the vehicle, and the offender is restricted to driving only vehicles that have the device. Second, the offender must reapply for a license and pay the fees. Third, the offender must take a written test and pay a $680 fine. Fourth, the offender completes a Participation Agreement for the Interlock Program. Finally, the offender must provide proof of insurance. After a mandatory license revocation period of fifteen days, the offender may submit all the documentation to the DMV and apply for the Y-restricted license.
Nothing in the process was easy. Worst was the day I managed to get a ride to go to Buffalo to take my written test, pay the fine, and apply for the new license. I didn't know there was a rule that applicants needed to be at the test station by a certain time to even start the written test, and was a few minutes past the deadline when I arrived. Though staff didn't have a problem taking my license application and fee or the fine, they refused to allow me to take the test.
Me: I guarantee I'll finish that test well before the closing time.
Staff: We cannot allow it.
Me: How many questions on the test?
Me: I guarantee I'll be done in fifteen minutes.
Staff: No. I would have to take the test from you five minutes before closing and anything you didn't finish would count against you.
Me: That's more than twenty minutes. I guarantee I'll be done.
Staff: It's against the rules.
Me: You understand I don't have a license and had to arrange a ride? And that now he's going to have to wait an hour longer than I said?
Me: So when can I come back?
Me: Exactly at one? Or 1:05? Or 1:15?
Staff: Exactly at one.
I bought my very patient son lunch, and made it back by 12:58.
Staff did not open the door until exactly one, which left me two minutes to tell another applicant my story.
Upon entering the testing room, I was asked for my license and handed a test.
Me: Is this the right test?
Staff: Umm. Yeah.
Me: You said there were 40 questions. This has 25.
Staff: It's the right test.
As I sat down to take the test, I looked at the clock. It was 1:01.
I read each question and response. I answered carefully. When I finished the test, I looked at the clock again. It was 1:04. As I walked up to the counter with my completed test, the other applicant gave me the thumbs up and mouthed, "You rock!"
Me: Three minutes.
Staff: We were just following rules.
Me: Three minutes.
Staff: You have a perfect test.
Me: What was that?
Staff: You scored 100%.
Me: Three minutes.
After numerous frustrating calls and visits to various DMV departments, my insurance company, and the Interlock company, I had obtained a complete dossier of documentation. I discovered at that point that paperwork processing was approximately two weeks behind. While talking to yet another employee of the DMV, I was told I could go in person to the Plymouth testing station and present my paperwork to the Ignition Interlock Manager, and she could approve my application immediately. After waiting a little more than three hours, I left successful. I could drive again!
Then this weekend, I got another letter from the DMV. A previously accepted document had been rejected and there was a form attached that needed to be completed by my insurance company. The letter had been mailed on December 12, and I received it December 26 or 27. The date of my new revocation was December 26. Had I driven my car over the weekend, the Interlock Device would have recorded the fact that I had driven after revocation, putting me in violation of my probation requirement to remain law abiding. Thanks be to the Creator that I was staying with a friend and didn't drive!
Further investigation revealed I needed to enroll in a special program - the SR-22 program - with my insurance company, at an additional fee, so they would report to the DMV that my insurance remains in good standing each month. Interestingly enough, I had enrolled in that program in November but was told I didn't need to do it and that only people considered a threat to public safety were required to do so. I reenrolled and am waiting to hear from my latest DMV contact that she's received the necessary documentation and I can drive again.
Here's my very legitimate question that no one can seem to answer: If a person wishes to remain law abiding and demonstrate respect for the law, where does that person go to find out the exact requirements for doing so?
I have reviewed the website multiple and cannot find any indication that I should be required to the additional insurance monitoring.
The Ignition Interlock Program information page can be found here, and does not mention the SR-22 program. That page has a link to the actual application, and the application does not mention the additional requirement, only that I need to avoid tampering with the device and cannot fail an initial start test or rolling retest. The Revoked Status Checklist does not mention the additional requirement. Nor does the only other relevant document I can find, the Updated Fact Sheet. Interestingly enough, the document attached to my new revocation letter dated December 12 had a form attached that would not have been an acceptable proof of insurance either!
People are surprisingly judgmental about alcohol-related offenses. I was too, before I was arrested on June 20. The reality is that the majority of people I know could easily have found themselves in my shoes. Even the deputies in jail admitted the same. Our society is casual about imbibing and then driving. I am not trying to justify my own actions or make an excuse. I highly recommend that anyone who swallows one drop of alcohol not drive a vehicle. However, considering how complex and difficult it is to get information about how to navigate the "system" I have a new sympathy for people with no resources. Speaking to an agent in the Commissioner of Public Safety's Office, I learned that it is also very difficult for people within the Department of Motor Vehicles to easily access information as well.
Perhaps I have found a new way to make a difference.
Other Facts About the Interlock Ignition Program:
- The device is obnoxiously loud
- It's not enough to be able to start the vehicle; the applicant has to do rolling tests WHILE DRIVING!
- The shrill is enough to drive a good man bad
- If you don't have enough air, the shrill sound continues
- I have pneumonia
- Everyone - everyone - sees it
- It's an amazing training tool
- The device - and all of its calibrations and installations - is expensive
- No one - NO ONE - wants one
- Avoid the device by driving entirely sober - one swallow, one ride