Address Outstanding Obligations Before Your Hearing

Before you appear before the Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance, it is critical that you insure that all outstanding financial obligations have been satisfied in full, as having unpaid obligations may be construed as evidence of a lack of responsibility, which might reflect negatively on you and your case. Also, even if you win your appeal, the Registry will allow you to reinstate your license unless and until all outstanding financial obligations are paid.

You must pay any outstanding parking tickets, civil motor vehicle citations, child support, fast lane or EZ pass violations prior to your hearing. Also, if you are required to take the National Safety Council 8 hour attitudinal dynamics of driving (ADD) course for 7 surchargeable events or habitual traffic offender revocation, you will not get your license reinstated without having completed the required classes. JOL violators must also take the State Courts Against Road Rage (SCARR) program. Taking the classes and paying any outstanding tickets, fines, and fees may increase your chance your chances of winning. The Registry advocate will have a list of any outstanding issues and inform the Board members of them during your hearing.

One of the benefits of hiring a lawyer to represent you is that your attorney can help you identify and address any pending outstanding obligations before your hearing. The goal is to clean up your record, so that the only outstanding item is the suspension for which you are seeking a hardship license.

Denied by the Registry? Get a Hardship License from the Board of Appeal

With the general lack of public transportation in Massachusetts, the loss of a driver’s license can cause a tremendous strain on your work, family, and financial life. Unless you live and work in a city where there is public transportation such an Boston, Worcester, or Springfield, a valid license is probably a necessity. In this region, driving is critical and not being able to drive can be absolutely devastating.

Fortunately for those who have had their licenses suspended or revoked, when it comes to getting a hardship license, the Mass. RMV is not the only option. There is an agency known as the Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance of the Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation (OCABR), which has the legal authority to order the Registry of Motor Vehicles to grant a hardship license, even in cases where the Registry of Motor Vehicles has previously denied the hardship license request or in cases where the Registry does not have the authority to grant a hardship license itself.

The Massachusetts Board of Appeal has broad powers and authority to overrule any decision of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, whether it pertains to hardship licensing, suspensions, revocations, or full license reinstatements. The Board of Appeal only has authority over Registry actions and it cannot overrule court decisions or court-ordered license actions.

Board of Appeal hearings are adversarial  legal proceedings where witnesses are sworn in and evidence is received and reviewed. These hearings are conducted in courtrooms or the hearing room at the Board’s office in Boston. There will be a representative from the RMV who will present the Registry’s case and likely ask that the Board reinstate your license or grant you a hardship license. Board decisions are reviewable in Superior Court. However, in most cases, it is very difficult to overturn a Board decision. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you hire a lawyer to represent you before the Board.

Hardship License After Not Guilty Verdict

Situation:

I was arrested for OUI / refusing Breathalyzer test and my license suspended automatically for 180 days. My court appointed attorney says I have a chance to beat the OUI case but he does not think any magistrate would reinstate my driver’s license even if I am found not guilty of the OUI charge. Please help

Answer:

During the term of a breathalyzer refusal suspension, the only way to get a hardship license from the Massachusetts Registry is to have your case resolved pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 24D and enroll in an approved alcohol program.  Therefore, if you are found not guilty and the judge refuses to reinstate your license, the Registry will not grant you a hardship license. You may be able to appeal to the Mass. Division of Insurance Board of Appeal for a hardship license. However, the Board may deny you a hardship license for the same reason that the DUI trial judge refused to grant you a full reinstatement of your license after you were found not guilty.

Also, the Board of Appeal has expressed a reluctance regarding hearing chemical test refusal appeals, because there is already a statutory mechanism for them to be reviewed: within 15 days of the suspension by the Registry of Motor Vehicles and, in the event of a not guilty verdict or dismissal, by the judge who presided over the operating under the influence case.

In summary, you have a chance to be considered for a 12 hour hardship license by the Board of Appeal, but there is risk that the Board will refuse to hear your appeal. There is also a risk that the Board will hear your case and refuse to grant you a hardship license, perhaps for the same reason that your lawyer believes that the District Court Judge will deny you. The Board is likely to afford the Judge’s decision some deference, because he is the one who presided over your trial and heard the evidence in a judicial forum.

No Hardship License While OUI Case is Pending

Question:

I have a pending case in New Bedford Third District Court for OUI Liquor, or over 0.08%. I refused the breathalyzer and completed half of a field sobriety test before I had terminated it. I was subsequently arrested and released on a personal the following day.

What can I do to get a hardship license? I am enrolled at Bristol Comm. College and have class four times a week, have a court case to attend to, and need to look for work. The date of the incident was 10/17/2013 and I am aware that I am past the 15-day deadline.

An RMV representative told me over the telephone that I cannot do anything until the case is resolved. This will take months, as I plan to fight it and hopefully win.

Answer:

Assuming that this is a first offense, and you are 21 years of age or older, you will have a 180 day chemical test refusal suspension for refusing the breathalyzer. This will be followed with an OUI suspension if you are convicted or plead out. The Registry of Motor Vehicles Representative was right. You cannot be considered for any type of a hardship license until your operating under the influence (OUI) case is resolved in court pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 24D and you have proof of enrollment in the 24D 1st offender alcohol program. While your case is pending, your license will remain suspended. If it takes longer than 180 days for your case to be heard, you can get your license reinstated after the 180 day chemical test refusal expires. If you’re convicted of OUI or are assigned to an alcohol program, you will have a new OUI suspension.

In Massachusetts, you cannot get a hardship license while a chemical test refusal suspension is running unless your case is resolved pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 24D.

If you are found not guilty or the OUI charge is dismissed, you can have a hearing in the New Bedford District Court regarding the full reinstatement of your driver’s license.

New Hampshire may soon be Granting Hardship Licenses

The State of New Hampshire does not issue hardship, restricted, Cinderella, or work licenses for any reason. However, that may be changing in the near future. In a bill backed by Mothers Against Drug Driving (MADD), New Hampshire lawmakers are considering granting ignition interlock restricted hardship licenses to first offenders in New Hampshire.

If passed, House Bill 496 will allow those convicted of a first offense DUI in New Hampshire to be considered for a hardship license which would allow the defendant to drive for work, medical, or substance abuse rehabilitation purposes.  Any license issued to the first offenders would be ignition interlock restricted.

The issuance of hardship licenses under this proposed law would be discretionary and it would be up to the court system to decide who would receive these hardship licenses.

Despite opposition from New Hampshire’s police chiefs, the bill has strong support and it appears likely to pass. The Bill is expected to be brought before the full house in early January, 2014.

Out of State Citation Triggers Mass. License Suspension

Hardship License Question:

Back in 2009 I was caught drinking underage and cited for it. I was not driving and was also told in order to drive in the state of Pennsylvania I would have to pay 25 dollars. Since I don’t go to PA, I felt no need to pay this ridiculous fine because I was not driving and didn’t even have a car at the time (my license was only 3-4 months old). Fast forward to today, I got a letter from the Massachusetts RMV that stating my license here would be suspended on December 8, 2012. (license is up for renewal in January) I’ve reached out to PennDOT and they said it would only affect my driving in PA. Then I reached out to a hearing officer at the Wilmington, MA Registry (5hr wait) where she said that she couldn’t extend the date that my Mass. License would be suspended and I must clear up what was done in Pennsylvania before I get my license back here in Massachusetts. My commute 6 days a week is 35-45 minutes a day. I’m not sure what to do and what I can do to get this fixed.

Answer:

PennDOT has you listed in the National Driver Register (NDR) as blocked, due to the Pennsylvania license suspension for being a minor in possession of alcohol. The National Driver Register was designed to prevent drivers from ignoring license suspensions, financial responsibility, citations, and other consequences occurring in states other than the driver’s home state. Basically, the NDR was designed to prevent people from doing what you did, ignoring a suspension in a state where you do not reside.

You cannot get a hardship license in Massachusetts while your right to drive is suspended in Pennsylvania and you’re blocked in the NDR, so you need to address the matter with the state of Pennsylvania. Once you’re reinstated in Pennsylvania, the Registry may want a certified copy of your PA driving record or “proof of findings” regarding the license suspension. This may trigger a corresponding license suspension in Massachusetts, pursuant to the law which states that the Registry is required to treat out of state convictions as if they had occurred here in Massachusetts. Therefore, since your right to operate was suspended due to a civil infraction in Pennsylvania, you may have to deal with an additional 180 day minor in possession of alcohol suspension in Massachusetts. If this happens, I may be able to get you a hardship license or early reinstatement, so long as you are no longer suspended in Pennsylvania.

School Zone Radius Reduced in Massachusetts Drug Cases

school_zone_drugsThe Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will automatically suspend your driver’s license for a period of 1 to 5 years if you have been convicted of a drug offense, even if it has nothing to do with driving or a motor vehicle. In accordance with G. L. c. 94C, § 32J, drug offenses committed within school zones carry minimum mandatory sentences of at least 2 year in jail. In 2012, the school zone radius was reduced from 1000 to 300 feet. In two decisions which were published today, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court announced that school zone violations which were committed prior to August 2, 2012, the effective date of the law reducing the radius to 300 feet, are still governed by the new 300 feet radius, so long as the cases are still pending and have not resulted in convictions or guilty pleas. This will allow numerous drug defendants to avoid mandatory jail time. However, they will still have their licenses automatically suspended if they are convicted or plead guilty. Fortunately, hardship licenses are available to qualified applicants.

Some Mass. Hardship License Q&A

inspection_sticker_massachusettsQuestion:

Hi I currently have 8 citations. Before today I had 6 citations and just completed the 8 hour driver retraining class late so my license got suspended. Today I was on my way to a RMV hearing to pay my reinstatement fee. I got pulled over and got a citation for driving on a suspended license and another citation for a inspection sticker. I understand after 7 surchargeable events my license gets suspended again for another 60 days. Is there anything I can do about it? Request a hearing before I wait for my court date? Since I was on my way to pay my reinstatement fee could they give me a break? Just wondering if there was anything that could help me because with a 60 day suspension I am at risk of losing my current job.

Answer:

The Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Appeals Board will not consider that you were on the way to the Registry when you were stopped and cited for Operating After Suspension and non-inspection, both of which are surchargeable events. Also, given your record, you must be paying a high insurance premium because of the Massachusetts Safe Driver Insurance Plan under which bad drivers are penalized for surchargeable events and insurance companies use a 6 year lookback period.

My recommendation is to appeal the citation, which you must do by presenting the citation to the Clerk-Magistrate’s Office within 4 days of receipt of the citation. You should try to fight these charges because if you are convicted of operating on a suspended license you’ll have an additional suspension for driving while suspended and a 7 surchargeable events suspension. If you’re found responsible for non-inspection, you’ll have another 7 surchargeable events suspension as well.  Consequently, the best course of action is to appeal the citation and hire a lawyer to represent you at the Clerk-Magistrate hearing.

I am Disabled with 4 young children. I received a non-renewal letter due to back excise taxes (double billed after moving), also lost my long standing Director of Sales career due to serious health issues, leading to full disability (2005). Haven’t been able to drive for almost 10 years and desperately need hardship status due to limited income & serious health problems..I have a Clean 18 year driving history.. Please help my children need me to assist with driving them to school/ sports & my medical appointments. I have been punished for 10 years for being disabled.. If I had the money to pay past excise bills and two parking tickets, I would!  I am hoping for your assistance to at least gain hardship status.

Answer:

Unfortunately, there are no absolutely hardship licenses available for unpaid financial obligations. The only way to get your license reinstated is to pay what you owe.