The ‘Hardship’ Required to Get a License

Many Massachusetts Hardship License candidates confuse “hardship” with “inconvenience” and misunderstand what is required to be considered for a hardship license, which allows you to legally drive while your license is under suspension or revocation due to a DUI conviction, 7 surchargeable events, a drug conviction, or a 4 year habitual traffic offender revocation.

There are very specific reasons which entitle you to consideration for a hardship license. These include the documented need to drive for work, school, or medical reasons. Prior to seeking hardship relief for one of these three reasons, you must show through documentary evidence that pubic transportation will not meet your needs. The Board of Appeal generally views hardship licensing as an option of last resort and you must show that you have no other reasonable means of transportation.

Both the Mass. Registry of Motor Vehicles and Board of Appeals have ruled that the inability to do errands, bring your children to extracurricular activities, and perform similar driving responsibilities do not rise to the level of need required for a hardship license in Massachusetts. Instead, to receive hardship consideration, you must show that you’ve exhausted reasonable alternatives, such as using public transportation, and you need to drive to and from work, school, or medical appointments.

When appearing at a hardship license hearing, either at the Mass. RMV or Division of Insurance Board of Appeal, you must have documentary evidence to substantiate your hardship and a lawyer can help you prepare and present this evidence. The Registry and appeals board deny a large number of people because they do not have sufficient documentation and going into your hearing with the right paperwork can mean coming out with a license.

If you’re seeking a license for work purposes, you should have a letter from your employer, on company letterhead which lists your work hours and describes your need to drive for employment purposes. If your employer can provide a character reference, that is sometimes helpful. If you are self-employed, you will need to substantiate your self-employment and you can write your own hardship license work letter. The best work letters recite, in sufficient detail, the need to drive as well as other important facts such a strict attendance policy.  Information based on personal knowledge of the hardship license applicant and the key role which the employee plays in the business is usually helpful, especially at the Board of Appeal.  If obtaining a letter from your employer is not feasible, there are other ways of supplying sufficient evidence to the Board of Appeal, so that you can be considered for a license.

If you are seeking a hardship license for education-related reasons, you must substantiate your enrollment in school with a class schedule and/or a letter from the Registrar’s office or some other suitable proof of enrollment. Difficulties sometime arise when the person seeking the hardship license works full time during the day and attends classes at night. The issue here is that, by statute, a hardship license is only valid for 12 hours and operating outside of those hours is a crime.

Those seeking hardship licenses for medical purposes should obtain documentary evidence, usually in the form of a letter from the applicant’s treating physician, explaining the patient’s appointment schedule and need to drive to and from the medical appointments.  If obtaining such a letter is not practical, there are other ways of providing the Board of Appeal with sufficient evidence to satisfy the Board’s requirements.

Proving a hardship is only half the battle. You must also convince the Registry or Board of Appeal that granting a license will not compromise public safety and that you are worthy of one of these agencies exercising their discretion to return you to the road. Courts have repeatedly ruled that the granting of a hardship license is considered “extraordinary relief” and there is no entitlement to such relief, even if you meet all of the requirements. A lawyer can help you increase your chances of being granted a hardship license by thoroughly preparing and presenting your case.