What Do I Do If I’m on Probation and Blow a Violation? Do I Call My Probation Officer?

As part of a plea bargain, prosecutors often require an ignition interlock device (IID) or personal alcohol monitoring device (PAM) when a person is either convicted or placed on probation for an alcohol related offense. This may even occur if a person is placed on probation or deferred adjudication for an offense like reckless driving or obstruction of a passageway when that charge is filed as part of an agreement to dismiss a DWI. If the charge is for a subsequent DWI conviction, such a device may also be mandated as a condition of probation by statute. That means even the judge can’t do away with a statutory requirement and it must be included as part of your punishment in the case.

It should be noted, and I always warn my clients, that these devices are very sensitive and will detect even minute levels of alcohol. I have seen readings as low as .0075 (less than half a beer in your system). Generally the motor vehicle will start when a reading of below .03 is detected but a record of the low reading will be reported when the data is downloaded at calibration, which is generally once a month. Those results will be forwarded to the person’s probation officer by the ignition interlock company as per their agreement with the court system. The individual is told to always retest when a violation is detected. The retest can be anywhere up to 15 minutes after the initial blow. The reason for this is to compare the two or more blows to see if any differential is consistent with alcohol. A failure to blow will most likely be considered an attempt to conceal and will be considered by probation as a failure.
In Travis County most misdemeanor judges will not revoke or adjudicate a person for one failure but it is likely that a motion to revoke or adjudicate will be filed and a warrant for the person’s arrest may be issued requiring the person to be arrested and required to make bond. It is also important to realize any admissions made to a probation officer can be used as evidence against you in court and at a bond increase hearing. Your only friend in this situation is your qualified DWI attorney.

All of that being said there could be other substances that may produce a false positive on the device. Generally people are warned that mouthwash, cough syrup, certain foods, hand sanitizers and fuel, among many others could be a problem. Depending on how high the reading and the progress on the part of the individual and the relationship with the probation officer will be factors on whether the violation is treated administratively or with a warrant. If it is a one time thing I think it best to report the violation and if plausible deny alcohol use. We always tell our clients to carefully read the instructions about the device you are using and don’t even think about consuming a product that is questionable. Judges are always hearing that the client consumed something other than alcohol and sometimes get upset if they think you are lying to them.

In my experience any violations will be reported and the probation officer will learn of the violation at least within a month or so of the event. The best policy is to ALWAYS avoid ALL alcohol use when on probation. It is difficult to have to blow into these devices on a regular basis without getting frustrated, embarrassed or angry. Remember that sometimes these devices are our only proof that you have not been consuming alcoholic beverages and driving. That can sometimes be the one thing that gets us a fantastic deal – the fact that you have been blowing clean for the whole period of time. Read more about these devices here, knowledge is power if you have it and use it!

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