License Revocations and Limited Driving Privileges for High-Risk Drivers

I wrote here about several types of driver’s license revocations that can result from a person being charged with and convicted of impaired driving under G.S. 20-138.1 as well as about a driver’s ability to obtain a limited driving privilege to mitigate the effects of the revocation that occurs upon conviction. The earlier post omitted any discussion of additional licensure consequences and limited privilege restrictions that are specific to a defendant convicted of impaired driving based upon a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more, ramifications that I will explore in this post.

As is the case for any person convicted of impaired driving in violation of G.S. 20-138.1, a person so convicted based on an alcohol concentration of 0.15 is subject to a license revocation of at least one year. G.S. 20-17(a)(2); G.S. 20-19(c1). The revocation period is longer if the person has one or more qualifying prior convictions. G.S. 20-19(d), (e1). Such a person may, if he or she is otherwise eligible for a limited driving privilege under G.S. 20-179.3, obtain such a privilege authorizing limited driving during the period of revocation. If, however, evidence that the person had an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more was presented at trial or sentencing, the limited privilege must contain additional restrictions that reflect the person’s status as a “high-risk driver.” G.S. 20-179.3(c1).

Limited Driving Privilege Requirements for High-Risk Drivers

A limited privilege issued to a high-risk driver must:

(1) not become effective until at least 45 days after the final conviction under G.S. 20-138.1;

(2) restrict the driver to operating only a designated motor vehicle;

(3) require that the designated motor vehicle be equipped with functioning ignition interlock system of a type approved by the Commissioner of NC DMV, which is set to prohibit driving with an alcohol concentration greater than 0.00;

(4) require that the driver personally activate the ignition interlock system before driving the motor vehicle; and

(5) restrict the applicant to driving only to and from the applicant’s place of employment, the place the applicant is enrolled in school, any court ordered treatment or substance abuse education, and any ignition interlock service facility.

G.S. 20-179.3(c1);(g5). AOC-CR-341 is the form for such privileges.

For purposes of determining whether the person qualifies as a high-risk driver, G.S. 20-179.3(c1) provides that the results of a chemical analysis presented at trial or sentencing are sufficient to prove a person’s alcohol concentration, are conclusive, and are not subject to modification by any party, with or without approval of the court.

Exception for Employer-Owned Motor Vehicles

The ignition interlock restrictions for a limited driving privilege that are set forth as requirements (2), (3), and (4) above do not apply to a motor vehicle that is owned by the driver’s employer and that the driver operates solely for work-related purposes if the owner of the vehicle files with the court a written document authorizing the driver to drive the motor vehicle for work-related purposes under the authority of the limited driving privilege. G.S. 20-179.3(g4). This exception to ignition interlock requirements is unique to the limited privilege; there is no such exception to ignition interlock requirements that apply after the period of revocation ends and a person’s license is restored. G.S. 20-17.8.

License Restoration

A limited driving privilege issued pursuant to G.S. 20-179.3 is effective only during the period of revocation imposed pursuant to G.S. 20-17(a)(2). At the conclusion of the revocation period, a person may apply to NC DMV to have his or her license restored. See G.S. 20-7(i1) (imposing $100 restoration fee for person revoked under G.S. 20-17(a)(2)); G.S. 20-17.6 (imposing requirements for restoration of license following conviction of driving while impaired); G.S. 20-17.8 (imposing ignition interlock requirements upon restoration). If NC DMV receives an affidavit pursuant to G.S. 20-16.2(c1) stating that the driver had an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more, the person’s license may be restored (after a period of revocation following conviction of impaired driving under G.S. 20-138.1) only with an ignition interlock restriction providing that:

(1) the driver may operate only a vehicle that is equipped with a functioning ignition interlock system of a type approved by the Commissioner of NC DMV;

(2) the driver must personally activate the ignition interlock system before driving the vehicle; and

(3) the driver may not drive with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more. (An alcohol concentration restriction of 0.00 is required if the driver also was convicted, based on the same circumstances, of (i) driving while impaired in a commercial vehicle; (ii) driving while less than 21 after consuming alcohol or drugs; (iii) death by vehicle or serious injury by vehicle; or (iv) manslaughter or negligent homicide resulting from the operation of a vehicle when the offense involved impaired driving.)

G.S. 20-17.8(b). An alcohol concentration restriction of 0.04 combined with an ignition interlock restriction is noted on a person’s license as restriction 20. An alcohol concentration restriction of 0.00 combined with an ignition interlock restriction is noted on a person’s license as restriction 22.

These requirements are in effect for (1) one year from the date of restoration if the original revocation period was one year; (2) three years from the date of restoration if the original revocation period was four years; or (3) seven years from the date of restoration if the original revocation was a permanent revocation. G.S. 20-17.8(c). If the person was eligible for and received a limited driving privilege under G.S. 20-179.3, with the ignition interlock requirement contained in G.S. 20-179.3(g5), the period of time for which the limited driving privilege was held must be applied toward the requirements of G.S. 20-179.3(c). Thus, a high-risk driver subject to a one-year revocation who was issued a limited driving privilege on the forty-sixth day after the revocation is required to maintain ignition interlock for only forty-five additional days post-restoration.

A person subject to the ignition interlock requirement as a condition of license restoration must equip all the vehicles he or she owns with ignition interlock. G.S. 20-17.8(c1). NC DMV may grant an exception to the requirement that all vehicles be so equipped for vehicles that are relied upon by another member of the person’s family for transportation and are not in the possession of the affected driver. Id. So, for example, if a driver owns a motor vehicle that is driven by and in the possession of the driver’s son or daughter who is attending college and lives outside the family home, the college student’s motor vehicle does not have to be equipped with ignition interlock.

Approved Ignition Interlock Providers

As noted earlier, to satisfy the requirements for both limited driving privilege and license restoration purposes, the ignition interlock system installed must be of a type approved by the Commissioner of NC DMV. NC DMV issued in February 2011 new ignition interlock program standards and procedures. A kerfuffle ensued upon their adoption between NC DMV and the longstanding and exclusive provider of ignition interlock services, Monitech, Inc., which was not initially certified under these standards. Two lawsuits filed by Monitech were settled a few months ago pursuant to an agreement that allows Monitech to continue serving as an ignition interlock provider for existing customers and permits Monitech to accept new customers until July 31, 2012, a date by which NC DMV will have completed its review of the company’s new certification application. See Craig Jarvis, Morrisville ignition-lock company Monitech settles with DMV, News and Observer, March 22, 2012. Smart Start Inc. is the only company currently certified under the new standards.