Total Abstinence investigations are conducted by the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles Enforcement & Safety Division. Total Abstinence investigations encompass only a small percentage of these divisions assigned duties but are considered to be amongst the highest importance in the interest of public safety and liability for the State of Vermont. The investigation of alleged criminal activity is the primary responsibility of the DMV Enforcement & Safety Division, so it may take six (6) months to one (1) year before your investigation can be completed. Total abstinence investigations are assigned geographically, depending on where you live. Eleven DMV Investigators are distributed throughout Vermont and are assigned these cases based on where you reside.
You will forward your application packet (form VS-077) to the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles Enforcement & Safety Division. Once received, your packet of information will be reviewed for completeness and, if incomplete, will be returned to you. The investigation will not commence until DMV gets your proof of treatment completion form from the IDRP administrator. Once all the information is received in its entirety, an investigator will be assigned your Total Abstinence investigation. All of the requested information in your Total Abstinence packet must be accurately completed. The more information you provide, the more quickly your investigation will be completed in most instances. When the investigator meets with you, you will be asked to sign a records waiver release that permits them to access all of your records, medical and otherwise, in an unrestricted manner; this can be uncomfortable and at times, embarrassing. During a Total Abstinence investigation, it is essential to understand your life becomes an open book for the assigned investigator. Investigators are tasked to either prove or disprove your claim of Total Abstinence from alcohol and illegal drugs for a minimum of three years.
Investigators will review your information, meet with you to discuss your case and the information you provided. You will be asked a series of questions pertinent to your case, so the assigned investigator can conduct the investigation as efficiently as possible. During a Total Abstinence investigation, the assigned investigator may conduct a host of interviews with your current family, ex‐family members when applicable, friends, neighbors, property owners, co‐workers, health care providers, counselors, probation, and parole officials, law enforcement and so on. Area stores, bars, and restaurants who sell and serve alcohol may be checked to determine whether alcohol has been purchased or consumed by the program applicant. Other investigative tools and methods may also be employed, depending on the complexity of your case. Investigation times can significantly increase if complications arise regarding an applicant’s claim of sobriety or the availability of important witnesses.
Total Abstinence investigations may take longer if you have lived in more than one location during your minimum three‐ year term of abstinence, as investigators may not only want to speak to individuals surrounding the area where you currently reside, but may now need to conduct the same types of interview around your previous address(es). This can add many hours of additional work to a case. The investigator assigned to your case may need to speak with you throughout the investigative process, so it is critical to provide as much accurate contact information as possible, making it easy to get in touch with you.
Upon completion of your investigation, you will be informed of the result by the assigned investigator. If no evidence has been discovered to disprove your claim of total abstinence, the investigator’s work, filed in the form of a written report, will be forward to the Agency of Transportation’s Hearings Unit. Subsequently, a Hearing Officer will review your case, and you will be contacted to attend a reinstatement hearing. At the hearing, the Hearing Officer will discuss the investigation with you and make a final determination as to whether or not your privileges to operate a motor vehicle will be reinstated. If the reinstatement is granted, you will be instructed to contact the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles, and you’ll be given documentation to provide verifying this. Any unpaid fines you may have, along with a reinstatement fee must be paid prior to your license reinstatement with the DMV. A complete operating examination will be required if your license has been revoked or if it has been expired for more than three years. The examination will include an eye, written, and road test. Upon reinstatement, your operator’s license will be restricted, indicating your involvement in the Total Abstinence Program or the Ignition Interlock Program. An ignition interlock device will be required to be installed in any vehicle you drive for a period of twelve months following license reinstatement. If you have had an Ignition Interlock Device for a full three years (36 months) prior to Total Abstinence reinstatement, the additional 12 months may not be required. To enroll in the ignition interlock program, you must contact the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles RDL Unit at (802) 828‐2000. It is strongly suggested you review the ignition interlock program’s frequently asked questions.
Restriction letter “T” is a no alcohol and no drug restriction, which will remain on your operator’s license for life following reinstatement through the Total Abstinence Program. This restriction means you cannot legally consume any amount of alcohol or use an illegal drug UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES ever again. If you have been found to have violated this restriction, your operating privileges will be revoked for life, and you cannot apply for the Total Abstinence Program again.
The advantage of being reinstated through the Total Abstinence Program is you can ultimately operate vehicles without an ignition interlock device installed. In addition, the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles Enforcement & Safety Division will send a letter to the law enforcement agency or agencies in your area of residence, notifying them you have been reinstated through the Total Abstinence Program. The purpose of this communication is to notify law enforcement of your reinstatement and the restriction of no alcohol and/or drugs for life.
If, during an investigation, evidence has been discovered disputing your claim of total abstinence, you will be denied reinstatement. If denied, you have a right to request a hearing through the Agency of Transportation Hearing Unit within 15 days of notice. At the hearing, you will be provided with all the details of your investigation, along with a detailed account for the basis of your denial. Requesting a hearing is your right, and you may or may not choose to have representation by legal counsel at your own expense. If denied, you will, in most cases, be eligible to reapply for license reinstatement through the Total Abstinence Program in the future after you have satisfied a full three years of completed sobriety. Your denial letter will contain an eligibility date for when you may reapply to the Program. The fee you paid for your Total Abstinence investigation to the DMV will not be refunded if you are denied reinstatement.
As part of your Total Abstinence packet, you will be asked to sign an “Applicant’s Sworn Declaration” (affidavit), citing the date your sobriety commenced. The affidavit will detail the dates of abstinence from alcohol and illegal drug use. It is important to understand this is a sworn document, to include the majority of all the documents in the Total Abstinence Application packet and making material false statements in the forms, to include your sobriety on this form, is both a criminal and civil offense for which you can be charged with a crime and fined. You must be utterly truthful regarding your sobriety in the Total Abstinence process. Applicants found to have not been forthright regarding their sobriety have had to face additional legal penalties resulting from this.