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.

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.

Out of State DUI Convictions & your Massachusetts License

Getting your Massachusetts Driver’s License reinstated from an out of state DUI suspension or revocation can be a very frustrating process. This is because you must satisfy the reinstatement requirements of the jurisdiction where the DUI offense occurred as well as the requirements of MassDOT.

You cannot get a Massachusetts Hardship or Cinderella license while your right to operate a motor vehicle is under suspension or revocation in any other state or jurisdiction. This means that you cannot get an DUI in New Hampshire, for example, and then get a Mass. Hardship License while the State of New Hampshire has your driving privileges under suspension in that state. Instead, you must satisfy all outstanding obligations to the State of New Hampshire, which may include an SR-22 Insurance Certificate, which proves to the Financial Responsibility Section of the NH DMV that you have adequate liability coverage.

You can reinstate in Massachusetts only when your outstanding obligations to the other state has been satisfied. However, your troubles usually do not end there. This is because the Mass. Registry will penalize you for an out of state DUI conviction or motor vehicle infraction as if the incident had occurred here in Massachusetts. This means that in addition to whatever penalty you served in the state where the conviction occurred, you must serve the penalty imposed by Massachusetts Law.

Fortunately, in many cases, there are ways to avoid or reduce the suspension imposed by MassDOT for out of state convictions. However, this requires a Registry Hearing and situations like this must be handled on a case-by-case basis. The first step in this process is to collect all relevant court documentation from the state where the offense occurred. Examples of important items to collect and retain include a copy of the court docket or an abstract showing the charges, offense date, disposition date, and outcome of the case.

If you need assistance dealing with an out of state DUI, please contact my office for a consultation and review of your situation. My office has successfully worked with out of state DUI lawyers to achieve the best outcome in these cases, so as to avoid or reduce the suspension and revocation consequences.

 

The Connecticut Pretrial Alcohol Education Program

ct_licenseFirst offenders in the State of Connecticut may be eligible to participate in the Pretrial Alcohol Education Program, which is administered by the Connecticut Superior Court. This program consists of at least 10 alcohol or substance abuse counseling sessions and a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Panel. The program is overseen by the state and it is delivered by twelve authorized providers. Eligibility for this DUI program is limited first offenders and second offenders whose first drunk driving offense is more than 10 years old. A substance abuse evaluation is mandatory as a condition of entry into the program.  Successful completion of this Pretrial Alcohol Education Program results in the DUI charges being dismissed by the court. This dismissal will occur approximately one year after your assignment to the AEP. Dismissal is mandatory upon successful completion of the program.

The goal of the Pretrial Alcohol Education Program is to reduce DUI recidivism through education. One of the benefits of this pre-trial diversion program to participants is that participation is possible without having to plead guilty and successful program completion will result in a dismissal of the charges by the court.  When your DUI is dismissed, it will be removed from your criminal record. However, the fact that you were assigned to and completed the AEP will remain on your driving record and this may have consequences for licensing and insurance.

Unfortunately, if you are a Massachusetts resident who commits a DUI in the State of Connecticut, and the Registry of Motor Vehicles discovers or is notified of your DUI arrest and resulting assignment to an alcohol education program, the Registry will treat it as an OUI conviction and suspend your Massachusetts Driver’s License for one year as a first offense, two years for a second offense, eight years for a third offense, ten years for a fourth offense, and life for a fifth or subsequent offense.

Like Massachusetts, Connecticut offers hardship licenses to those offenders who meet the state’s qualifications. This Connecticut alcohol education program is similar to the Massachusetts 24D program, which is available to first offenders and “second chance” first offenders, whose prior DUI conviction occurred more than 10 years before the second offense.

Habitual Traffic Offender Appeals

hto_revocationThe Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will revoke your driver’s license / right to operate a motor vehicle in Massachusetts for a period of 4 years, pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 22F, if you are determined to be a Habitual Traffic Offender under Massachusetts law. You can be considered a Habitual Traffic Offender if you have 3 major violations such as drunk driving, operating after suspension, reckless driving, operating so as to endanger, or leaving the scene of an accident within any five (5) year period.

You can also be considered a Habitual Traffic Offender, and have your license revoked for 4 years, if you have 12 minor violations in any 5-year period. Minor violations are motor vehicle infractions such as speeding, failure to stop, improper passing, failure to stay within marked lanes, failure to yield to a pedestrian, etc… At fault accidents do not count towards Massachusetts Habitual Traffic Offender revocations.

If MassDOT has declared you to be a Habitual Traffic Offender and your license or right to drive has been revoked, you must stop operating motor vehicles until your license is reinstated. When you are eligible for reinstatement, the RMV will require you to pay a $500.00 reinstatement fee.

You have the legal right to a hearing prior to your license being revoked under the Habitual Traffic Offender law and you have the right to be represented by counsel. The Registry only holds HTO revocation hearings at the following branches: Braintree, Worcester, Springfield, Lawrence, Fall River, Wilmington and 136 Blackstone St., Boston, MA, 3rd Floor. You must appear by 11:00 A.M. should you desire a hearing.

Issues at Massachusetts HTO hearings are limited to the accuracy of your driving record or the HTO law incorrectly applied. To challenge the accuracy of your record, you must provide a certified motor vehicle abstract or finding from the court showing that the judgement is not correct. A lawyer may be able to assist you with this. The HTO hearing will not address whether you agree with the court finding. There is no requirement to attend the Registry hearing if your record is accurate and the revocation is legally valid.

The RMV will not consider you for a hardship license or early reinstatement until you have served at least one full year the four-year revocation period. When applying for a hardship license at the Registry, there must be absolutely no evidence of vehicle operation.

You can appeal Habitual Traffic Offender revocations to the Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liability Policies and Bonds, which is located at 1000 Washington Street, 8th Floor, Boston, Massachusetts. A lawyer may be able to assist you with your appeal.

MADD to hold Rally at Statehouse

Tomorrow at 10:00 AM, Mothers Against Drunk Driving will be holding a rally and ignition interlock demonstration on the steps of the Massachusetts Statehouse. The purpose of this event is to demonstrate support for Senate Bill 2445 which will eliminate all DUI hardship license waiting periods and allow repeat offenders to immediately seek license reinstatements. The Bill eliminates all DUI statutory minimum suspension periods, regardless of the number of drunk driving convictions an offender has. It allows the Registry to issue ignition interlock restricted licenses to all drunk drivers, regardless of the number of prior convictions and/or chemical test refusals.

If enacted, this bill will allow those whose licenses have been revoked for life due to breathalyzer refusals to be considered for the immediate issuance of full time driver’s license. Currently repeat offenders are prohibited from being issued a driver’s license while breathalyzer refusal suspensions are in effect. This proposed legislation will allow all those who have refused a breath test, regardless of the person’s driving record, to be immediately considered for the issuance of an ignition interlock restricted license, with no minimum mandatory waiting period.

Senate Bill 2445 will allow those who have been refused licenses by the Registry of Motor Vehicles or Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance to be re-considered for licensure, without having to serve any additional suspension time.

This legislation will allow repeat DUI offenders to satisfy the Registry’s alcohol education program requirement by simply enrolling in the 24D 1st offender program. Repeat drunk drivers will no longer be required to complete the 14 day in-patient residential program in Tewksbury or a 90 day in-patient alcohol program. Instead, if the new law passes, the first offender out-patient program will be acceptable, no matter how many DUI convictions the offender has on his or her record.