Get a Hardship License or Full Reinstatement

mass_licenseIf the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles has suspended or revoked your driver’s license or right to operate, my office may be able to get you a 12 hour hardship license or full reinstatement of your driving privileges. I have been representing clients before the Driver Control Unit of the Mass. RMV and the Board of Appeal of the Massachusetts Division of Insurance for many years and I have been able to achieve excellent results for my clients.

I am proud to have distinguished myself as a statewide expert on Mass. RMV matters and I serve as a resource for other lawyers who are looking for information regarding Massachusetts drivers license suspensions, revocations, and reinstatements as well as hardship licensing appeals.

As a lawyer who specializes in Massachusetts RMV cases, I routinely handle cases involving 7 surchargeable event suspensions, indefinite immediate threat revocations, immediate threat medical suspensions, 4 year habitual traffic offender revocations, drug related license suspensions, DUI and chemical test refusal suspensions, and fraudulent license revocations, to name a few. It is important to realize that I may be able to get you a hardship license, or even a full reinstatement, even if the RMV has denied you.

My office does not handle indefinite license suspensions for non-payment of taxes, child support, traffic citations, or property damage claims. These suspensions can be cleared by paying the outstanding financial obligations and no hardship licenses are issued for these suspensions, either from the Board of Appeal or the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

I have been very successful in resolving a variety of National Driver Register (NDR) suspensions in Massachusetts and NDR suspensions in other states which have originated in Massachusetts.

I urge you to contact me for a free consultation and review of your case.

MA Hardship License for Non-Residents

You cannot get a Massachusetts Hardship License if your are not a Massachusetts Resident. This is because in order to be issued any type of Massachusetts driver’s license, including a Cinderella or work license, you must be a resident of Massachusetts and you will be required to prove residency.

The good news is that if your right to operate has been suspended or revoked by the MA Registry of Motor Vehicles, you may be able to get “hardship relief” by going before the Board of Appeal. This appellate board has the legal authority to order the Registry of Motor Vehicles to remove the National Driver Register (NDR) block which will prevent you from being issued a driver’s license in any state. If the Board orders the Registry to remove the block, you will be able to apply for a driver’s license in your home state and your Mass. suspension or revocation will not prevent you from being granted the right to drive where you live.

If you are an out of state resident, the Board of Appeal is the only source for relief from a license suspension on the grounds of hardship. The Registry will not grant you this type of relief, under any circumstances, without a “Finding and Order” from the Appeals Board instructing the Registry to allow you to reinstate.

If you are Ignition Interlock Device (IID) required, you will need to either have the IID installed or apply for consideration for a waiver of the IID requirements based on non-residency. If you are granted a waiver by the Registry, you cannot operate a motor vehicle in Massachusetts without a certified IID. In order to get any further exemption from the IID requirement, if you are a repeat offender, the Board of Appeal must specifically state in the “Finding and Order” to “reinstate without the IID.”

The option of seeking hardship relief instead of a hardship license allows those faced with Massachusetts license suspensions to appear before the Division of Insurance Board of Appeal to be considered for relief which allows them to legally drive, so long as the motorist’s home state is willing to grant him or her a driver’s license. Hardship relief results in removal of the NDR block which is automatically applied to a driver’s record when his or her right to operate has been suspended or revoked in any state. Motor Vehicle departments are required to check the NDR prior to issuing a license. This requirement prevents individuals from obtaining a license in one state while his or her license is suspended in another state or jurisdiction. The Board’s ability to have this NDR block removed on the basis of hardship allows deserving drivers who qualify for relief a second chance.

 

Breathalyzer Refusal Suspensions

Breathalyzer Refusal SuspensionIn accordance with the Massachusetts implied consent law, if you refuse to submit to a breath or blood test after being arrested for DUI in Massachusetts, your license will be suspended for a minimum of 180 days up to life. The length of the refusal suspension depends on your age and number of prior DUI convictions. Evidence showing that you refused to consent to a breathalyzer or blood test will not be admissible against you at your DWI trial. However, refusal evidence is admissible at any RMV hearing.

License suspension penalties for breathalyzer refusals only apply when a person is arrested for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. Refusal license suspension penalties do not apply when a person is arrested for DUI drugs. Also, refusal suspension penalties can only be imposed after the arrestee was advised that his license, learner’s permit, or right to operate motor vehicles in Massachusetts will be suspended for a period of at least 6 months and up to a lifetime for the refusal.

If a person refuses to take a breathalyzer or blood test, the police are required to impound the vehicle used to commit the DUI for a 12-hour period, with the costs for the towing, storage and maintenance of the vehicle to be borne by the operator.

Chemical test refusal suspensions become effective immediately upon receipt of the notification of suspension from the police officer. These suspensions run consecutively and not concurrently. This means that they are “stacked” so that the refusal suspension will run first and any additional DUI suspension will not begin until the refusal suspension expires.

The police officer who receives the refusal is required to submit a report to the Mass. RMV within 24 hours of the refusal. The report must be made under the penalties of perjury and describe the grounds for the DUI arrest. It must state that the person refused and identify a witness to the refusal as well as the officer who requested the test.

Chemical Test Refusal (CTR) suspensions must be appealed to the Boston Branch of the Registry of Motor Vehicles, 136 Blackstone Street, Boston, MA, 3rd floor, during normal business hours on business days. Appeals must be filed within 15 days of the refusal. The police refusal report is considered prima facie evidence of the facts contained therein. Legal representation at these refusal hearings is strongly recommended.

Except in first offense DUI and “second chance first offense” DUI cases, the Registry will not grant any hardship, work, or Cinderella license while a breathalyzer refusal suspension is in effect. In repeat offense cases, this implied consent suspension must be served prior to hardship license consideration.

Risk of Recidivism and the Board of Appeal

Risk of recidivism or relapse is a key factor in any hardship license case which goes before the Division of Insurance Board of Appeal. Board members are rightfully concerned about an Appellant obtaining hardship relief from the Board and re-offending. Therefore, if you are seeking a hardship license, which is discretionary and considered “extraordinary relief” by the courts, you must successfully address recidivism concerns.

One of the ways you can increase your chances of being granted a reinstatement by the Board is to have a completed an alcohol education program which is commensurate with your DUI offense and the required aftercare component of this program. Being classified by the aftercare provider as having a low risk of recidivism is an important component of any hardship license appeal. However, the discharge summary must accurately describe your entire DUI history and prior drinking behavior, which must match your driving and criminal records, both of which the Board of Appeal will review as part of your hearing.

Another way to convince the Board of Appeal that your risk to re-offend is low is to actively participate in a self-help program such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Alanon, Narcotics Anonymous, or Smart recovery. Documented participation can show that you’re serious about not re-offending. Participation in individual counseling can also establish that you are not likely to relapse and re-offend, so long as it is properly documented.

One of the best ways to get information showing that you are a good risk to be issued a hardship license is to have a well-credentialed and experienced clinician, who has a good reputation, conduct a comprehensive substance abuse evaluation and write a report regarding your history and current prognosis as it relates to the potential for a future repeat offense. These reports can be extremely helpful when the clinician applies his or her expertise and explains why you are a good risk.

The Board of Appeal expects hardship license candidates to have well-prepared cases and the Board will not make calls or hunt for documents and reports. It is expected that when the case is presented the Appellant is able to establish a legitimate need for a license and that returning him or her to the road will not endanger public safety because any alcohol or substance abuse issues have been sufficiently brought under control. A lawyer who specializes in hardship licensing can help you prepare your case and increase your chances of getting your license back.

The 24D First Offender Program

In certain cases, a person charged with Operating a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence of Liquor (DUI), may elect to dispose of his/her case pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 24D. Under this disposition, the defendant must attend and satisfactorily complete an approved driver Alcohol Education Program. This structured program which consists of sixteen (16) educational classes, one two (2) hour evening per week, two (2) hours per session. In addition there will be an intake interview, an exit interview, two (2) mandatory Alcohol Anonymous meetings and one (1) required Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Forum. The cost of the 24D Alcohol Education Program is approximately $710.00.

Under this DUI disposition, the defendant’s driver’s license or right to operate a Motor Vehicle in Massachusetts will be automatically suspended for a minimum of 45 days and a maximum of 90 days, at the discretion of the judge who handles the case. This suspension runs after any chemical test refusal suspension. This 24D suspension is dramatically shorter than the 1 year suspension which a first offense DUI conviction normally carries in Massachusetts. The 24D suspension period does not include any suspension time served prior to the arraignment such as the 30 day admin. per se suspension period.

A DUI defendant receiving a 24D disposition will be placed on probation supervision for at least one year. While on probation, the defendant must report monthly, pay a monthly probation fee, and comply with all terms and conditions, which will be explained in detail by the supervising probation officer. Those receiving this first offender disposition usually have to surrender their driver’s licenses to a probation officer and the license is destroyed. This requires the probationer to get a new license upon the final resolution of the case or sooner if a hardship license is authorized by the Registry.

Any drunk driving defendant who fails to comply with the conditions of probation, will be brought back before the court for a violation of probation hearing and he or she may face the possibility of incarceration or some other consequence, such as a 1 year license suspension, for a probation violation.

If all of the conditions of probation have been met satisfactorily, the probation supervision will be terminated and the defendant will be discharged.

How the RMV Calculates License Suspensions

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles determines the length of driver’s license suspensions based on the customer’s RMV record and the law. If, for example, an individual has 3 DUI offenses and the prosecutor was only able to prove one prior offense, the court would treat that person as a second offender while the Registry would treat the person as a third offender and impose an eight-year OUI third offense revocation. The standard of proof at the Registry is the preponderance of the evidence and information contained in driving records is considered prima facie evidence for Registry actions such as suspensions.

In a DUI trial, the Commonwealth is required to prove prior offenses “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that the prosecution must prove that the criminal defendant was previously convicted or assigned to a drug or alcohol education program and that the person named in the prior conviction records and the defendant currently on trial are the same person. If the prosecution is unable to prove these facts, the prior offense cannot be counted against the defendant by the court. However, if the prior convictions or program assignments appear on the defendant’s Registry record, the Mass. RMV is legally required to count them when calculating the length of an operating under the influence suspension and when determining hardship license eligibility.

Some people say that the “Registry can do whatever it wants.” This is absolutely not true in this case. Instead, the Registry is guided by the law and the contents of a person’s driving record. The RMV simply applies the law to the convictions and alcohol program assignments appearing on a person’s Registry record; this determines the suspension length. A more accurate statement would be that the Registry is not bound by the sentence imposed by the trial court when it is contrary to the official records maintained by the Registrar.

In Massachusetts, drunk driving cases are often “plea bargained” so that the court treats and sentences a third offender as a second offender. This outcome might allow the defendant to avoid incarceration and other serious consequences and penalties. However, it will not prevent the Registry from imposing an 8-year third offense OUI license revocation and a five (5) year breathalyzer refusal suspension if the defendant refused the breath test when he or she was arrested.

In some cases, for example, the customer’s driving record might list out of state DUI offenses which do not appear in Massachusetts court or probation records. It is completely permissible for the Registry to count these offenses when determining the length of a DWI suspension or when determining if a driver is a habitual traffic offender.

I continue to be amazed by the number of lawyers who do not understand how the Registry calculates license suspensions in Massachusetts, which are determined by the law and the contents of the defendant’s Registry of Motor Vehicles record. This formula is also used to determine whether or not a person is ignition interlock required.

MA Breath Test Refusal Suspensions

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles imposes license suspensions in varying lengths to penalize drivers who have refused to submit to a chemical breath or blood test, after having been arrested for operating under the influence. These license suspensions range in length from 6 months for first offenders 21 years of age or older, to lifetime for those with 3 prior drunk driving convictions or alcohol program assignments.

Under the Massachusetts implied consent law, in exchange for receiving a Driver’s License, Massachusetts residents agree to consent to a breath or blood test. A refusal to take such a test when arrested for DUI will result in an administrative license suspension. This suspension must be served first, prior to the service of any suspension resulting from the DUI conviction or program assignment. The law allows the Registry to “stack” these suspensions, meaning that the breathalyzer refusal suspension will be served first and the DUI suspension will be served afterwards. For example, a second offender in Massachusetts will have a 3 year breathalyzer refusal suspension which is followed by a 2 year DUI second offense suspension. Thus, the total suspension time is 5 years. 3 years for the refusal and 2 years for the DUI. Breath test refusal suspensions run consecutively in Massachusetts and this is authorized by law.

Unless you are a first offender or a “second chance first offender,” you cannot be considered for any type of work, hardship, or Cinderella license while a chemical test refusal suspension is in effect. There are absolutely no exceptions to this rule. This means that if your license has been revoked for life for refusing a breath or blood test with 3 prior DUI convictions or alcohol program assignments, you are permanently ineligible for any type of driver’s license. If you are a third offender, you must serve the 5 year refusal suspension before being considered and if you are a second offender, you must serve the 3 year refusal suspension prior to being considered for a hardship license.

If you hold a Commercial Driver’s License and you refused to take a breath or blood test you will have a separate CDL suspension, even if you were not operating a commercial motor vehicle at the time of your arrest. Two refusals or DUI convictions arising out of separate incidents will result in an automatic lifetime CDL revocation / disqualification.

You can appeal a breathalyzer refusal suspension within fifteen (15) days of the suspension by going before a hearing officer at the Registry’s main branch, during normal business hours, at 136 Blackstone Street in Boston. These chemical test refusal (CTR) appeals are granted only on limited grounds.

If the DUI charges are resolved in your favor, you have the right to a hearing before the judge who presided over the DUI trial to have the CTR suspension terminated early. The judge must make written findings and the prosecution has an opportunity to contest reinstatement on the grounds of public safety.

Hardship Licenses for DUI 3rd Offenders

If you are a Massachusetts resident with 3 DUI convictions, you will have an 8 year OUI 3rd offense license revocation. You can be considered for a hardship license. However, you will likely be denied at the Registry and forced to go before the Board of Appeal. The Registry requires completion of a specific 90 day residential (in-patient) alcohol program as a condition for the issuance of a 3rd offender hardship license and few applicants have this required program.

Fortunately, the Board of Appeal can grant you a hardship license even if the Registry initially refuses to so. Massachusetts law gives the Board the legal authority to order the Registry to issue a license. Getting one of these orders from the appeals board will require scheduling and attending an evidentiary hearing before the 3 member Board. The Board members will be looking for certain documentation and information showing that the Appellant has a legitimate need to drive and his or her alcohol or drug issues have been brought under control such that granting a license would not represent a threat to public safety.

It is strongly recommended to have a lawyer represent you at the Board of Appeal because this is often your one and only opportunity to be granted hardship relief. If the Board denies your appeal, you may be forced to serve the remainder of your revocation period with no driver’s license. This often occurs because the person seeking hardship relief is unable to demonstrate, to the Board’s satisfaction, that he or she qualifies for relief and that any alcohol or substance abuse problem is being effectively addressed so that there is a low probability of relapse or recidivism.

There are many other things that can derail a hardship license appeal such as recent evidence of operation, unpaid child support, being suspended in another state, unresolved criminal charges, open cases, active warrants or defaults, insufficient documentation regarding alcohol or drug treatment, inadequate “sober time,” and/or violations of terms and conditions of probation.

If you are facing an 8 year license revocation as a third offender, please contact my office to discuss your case and how a hardship license attorney may be able to help you get back on the road, so that you can go to work and continue to support yourself and your family.

Initial Start Ignition Interlock Violations

The Registry’s Ignition Interlock Department is now penalizing drivers for initial start ignition interlock violations. Previously, the Registry would only take action on missed or failed rolling re-tests. Now, failed initial start tests are resulting in Ignition Interlock Violation Hearings.

An initial start failure occurs when the ignition interlock device detects alcohol above the BAC level of .02. When this occurs, the ignition interlock device (IID) may go into a “holding pattern” for a period of thirty (30) minutes. During this 30-minute waiting period, the driver should thoroughly rinse his or her mouth out with water and ensure that there are no chemicals or anything in the vehicle which could be falsely registering as alcohol.

Once the 30-minute waiting period has expired, the IID user will be given another opportunity to provide a breath sample. If this breath sample results in a reading above .02, the device will go into lockout status and it must be brought into a service provider to be downloaded within 48 hours. The vehicle will not start unless and until the breath sample registers at or below 02.

The Registry has interpreted G.L. c. 90 § 24 ½ to allow it to impose 10-year license revocations whenever an Ignition Interlock Device registers an alcohol reading of greater than .02 on two or more occasions or whenever the IID prevents a vehicle from starting on at least 2 occasions. In those situations, the Registry is now sending hearing notices to its customers and notices of intent to suspend, with the indefinite Ignition Interlock Violation suspension being scheduled to go into effect 10 days after the scheduled IVO hearing.

The Registry’s Ignition Interlock Department has moved from 25 Newport Ave Extension in Quincy to the Registry’s main branch at 136 Blackstone Street in Boston. All ignition interlock violation cases are heard there. The hearings are electronically recorded and you have the right to be represented by a lawyer, which I highly recommend. My office has been very successful in handling Ignition Interlock Violations.

If you experience a “false positive” ignition interlock violation, you should immediately document what happened and report the incident to your IID vendor. Some clients have protected themselves by requesting a comparison breath test from their local police department or urgent care healthcare provider. Not all police departments will comply with a breath test request. You can also purchase your own handheld breath test device.

The Interlock Program places the burden on the customer to take the steps necessary to properly document and report an unwarranted violation. One way to do this is to promptly call the Interlock Department and speak with a hearing officer. You should describe exactly what happened and include the exact date and time. You should follow any instructions the hearing officer provides.

Transportation Network Driver Certificates

Having too many violations on your record or being convicted of DUI or operating after suspension or revocation of your driver’s license can have serious and long-lasting consequences in Massachusetts, especially if you are a professional driver or you drive for Uber or Lyft. These “ride sharing” and transportation network companies are now legally required to conduct background checks on their drivers and certain offenses will prevent the issuance of a background check certificate, which is required as a condition of employment as a Uber, Lyft, or other TNC driver. It is illegal to drive for a TNC in Massachusetts without a valid transportation network driver certificate and this requires passing a criminal and driving record check. background investigation.

For example, if you have two or more DUI, leaving the scene, or related convictions, including cases that were continued without a finding, you will be permanently banned from driving for a transportation network company in Massachusetts.

Single convictions or CWOFs for reckless driving, negligent operation, operating so as to endanger, use of a motor vehicle without authority, and making a false statement to the RMV will also operate as disqualifiers, for a period of seven years. A Habitual Traffic Offender revocation operates as a 7 year disqualifier.

Having your driver’s license suspended or revoked for reasons related to the operation of a motor vehicle will disqualify you from driving for Uber and Lyft for a period of 7 years.

You cannot drive for a TNC such as  Uber or Lyft if you have an ignition interlock device installed in your motor vehicle.

Convictions, including CWOFs, for certain sex offenses, violent crimes, fraud, exploitation offenses, and robbery will result in permanent disqualification. Being a registered sex offender will prevent an individual from driving for a TNC in Massachusetts, as will active arrest warrants, open cases, and a lack of experience as a licensed driver in Massachusetts.

You will be denied a transportation network driver certificate if your driving record includes more than 4 traffic violations or any major traffic violation, as defined by the division of insurance, in the 3 year period immediately preceding your record check.

Driving and criminal record checks are required for drivers at least twice per year. This means that you are at risk of losing your certificate based on your driving and criminal record, even if you passed an initial check.

If you have appeared before the Board of Appeal and obtained a hardship license or early reinstatement of your full license, that does not mean that the offense which triggered the suspension cannot be used against you or that the license suspension does not disqualify you from being issued a transportation network driver certificate.

No Hardship License for Child Support Suspension – No Exceptions

license_suspensionIf you owe child support to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, you may be at risk of having your driver’s license indefinitely revoked by the Registry of Motor Vehicles. G.L. c. 90, § 22(g) requires MassDOT to indefinitely and automatically revoke a person’s driver’s license once the Massachusetts DOR has made a final determination regarding child support delinquency and the delinquent amount due remains unpaid. The law provides no right to a Registry hearing regarding this type of license revocation. Instead, an appeal hearing can be held at the Mass. Dept. of Revenue. This DOR Child Support Enforcement (CSE) hearing, which is held pursuant to G.L. c. 119A § 16 is the only avenue available to contest this type of mandatory license revocation. Absolutely no hardship license is available while a non-payment of child support revocation is in effect and there are no exceptions to this rule.  Neither the Registry nor the Division of Insurance Board of Appeal will grant hardship relief for this type of license loss and it makes no sense to hire a Registry lawyer to fight this type of suspension.

Child support arrearages are often the result of unfavorable divorce or other probate and family court judgments. The best away to avoid this type of situation is to hire the best divorce lawyer you can find, such as Attorney Mary Jo Hart, whose office is located at 290 West Main Street in Northborough, Massachusetts.

Once you have addressed the delinquency with the Child Support Enforcement Unit of the Massachusetts Dept. of Revenue (DOR), your license will not automatically be reinstated. Instead, you must pay a $100.00 reinstatement fee to resolve the indefinite revocation. The DOR is supposed to electronically notify the RMV that the delinquency has been addressed. If this does not happen automatically, you can bring a copy of the DOR release to a Registry Hearings Officer for entry into the MassDOT computer system.

Again, do not bother trying to get a hardship license if the Mass. DOR has revoked your license. No hardship licenses are available in this situation and, unfortunately, there are absolutely no exceptions. Instead, you must address the issue through the state Department of Revenue.