From the Bench: Ignition Interlock Removal

Credit: Ninapayan, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Today’s post is a unique installment of “From the Bench” because it involves an appeal to the Wyoming Supreme Court in one of my own cases. The issue concerned the degree or amount of “process” that should be afforded to individuals who have lifetime ignition interlock device requirements because of prior DUI convictions and who want to get relief from these lifelong requirements.

Under Wyoming law, Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-5-233(f)(v), a person must meet three requirements before he or she can ask a court to remove a lifetime ignition interlock requirement. First, more than five (5) years must have passed since the person’s last DUI conviction. Second, the person must not have been convicted of another DUI offense in Wyoming or elsewhere since the last known DUI conviction. And, third, the person must demonstrate “good cause” to support removing the ignition interlock requirement. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-5-233(f)(v) does not limit relief to only individuals with a small number of DUI convictions; a person with any number of DUI convictions may seek relief.

My client, Robert Ray Schneider, unequivocally met two of the three requirements for removal of a lifetime ignition interlock requirement. However, the third requirement–“good cause shown”–is vague and necessarily fact-dependent.

Mr. Schneider sought relief in court and represented to the court that he good make out the “good cause shown” requirement because he was sober, he had maintained his sobriety since his last DUI conviction, he took his sobriety seriously, and he no longer presented a danger to other motorists were he allowed to drive without an interlock device. Mr. Schneider asked for a hearing on his request for relief.

The State of Wyoming countered that, while it could not confirm Mr. Schneider’s sobriety or commitment thereto, Mr. Schneider’s high number of prior DUI convictions should caution against removing the lifetime requirement.

The trial court agreed with the State and denied Mr. Schneider’s petition without a hearing and without making any findings in support of its decision.

Mr. Schneider appealed on the grounds that his request for relief was denied without a hearing at which he could make a good cause showing and without any findings of fact.

Ultimately, the Wyoming Supreme Court unanimously agreed with Mr. Schneider. You can read the full opinion here:

In its opinion, the Wyoming Supreme Court held that “a court may not deny an application to remove an interlock device based solely on the applicant’s number of DUI convictions.” See Schneider v. State, 2022 WY 31, ¶14. Further, the Court concluded that, “an applicant shows good cause under § 31-5-233(f)(v) when he demonstrates that he would no longer present a threat to public safety if he were permitted to drive without an interlock device” and “if an applicant makes a prima facie showing of good cause, § 31-5233(f)(v) requires that a court afford the applicant an opportunity for a hearing.” Id. at ¶¶ 14-15.

All in all, a great outcome for my client and an important clarifying decision from the high court.

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