What is a Massachusetts Hardship License?

In Massachusetts, a hardship license is not a special type of license and it is no different than the Class D license generally granted by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, except that it has an “H” restriction. This restriction is no different than the “B” restriction, which might require a driver to wear corrective lenses, for example. The license itself looks no different than a “regular license” and the only limitation on a hardship license is that the driver is limited to driving during the 12 hour period specified on the hardship license.

A driver who is caught operating outside of the 12 hour period is not considered “operating after suspension,” in violation of G.L. c. 90 § 23, because he or she has a Massachusetts Driver’s License. Instead, the driver is considered operating without a valid license in violation of G.L. c. 90 § 10. The issuance of a hardship license by the Mass. RMV terminates the suspension and grants the driver limited driving privileges.

Some hardship licenses have additional restrictions, such as the “Z” restriction which requires the driver to drive only those vehicles which are equipped with a certified ignition interlock device. Violating the “Z” ignition interlock restriction is a criminal offense and it may result in a 10 year license revocation.

Driving is a privilege and not a right in Massachusetts. This means that the RMV and/or Appeals Board can refuse to grant you a hardship license and you usually have little recourse. Therefore, if you are serious about getting a hardship license, which is only issued for work, school, or medical reasons, you should hire a lawyer to represent you. The Board of Appeal is no place for someone who is appealing a substantial license suspension without a lawyer. The hearings are recorded and certain legal rules apply.

If you have lost your right to drive in Massachusetts, and you have a legitimate need to drive for medical, educational, or occupational reasons, you may want to pursue a hardship license. Call or complete the contact form on this website for more information.

Arrested for OUI in Massachusetts? Keep Every Piece of Paper!

filesIf you have been arrested for OUI and you are convicted or you have admitted to sufficient facts in exchange for a continuance without a finding (CWOF), you will be assigned to an alcohol education program. You will also be placed on probation and you may have to undergo an alcohol evaluation. It is very important to save every piece of paper you receive throughout the process. If you are applying for a hardship license the paperwork which you receive will be critical, whether you are applying at the Registry of Motor Vehicles or the Division of Insurance Board of Appeal. Examples of important documents include the docket, tender of plea or “green sheet,” proof of enrollment in the 24D program, alcohol program completion certificates & letters, the discharge summary from the 14 day DUIL program, Brains at Risk Completion Certificates, alcohol evaluations, proof of compliance with probation, receipts for payments made, alcohol or drug test results,  Alcoholic Anonymous attendance records, and the discharge summary from the aftercare component of the DUIL program which lists your recidivism rate or risk of relapse.

It is often difficult to obtain additional copies of these documents months or years after they were initially issued. Therefore, you should maintain a file containing these important papers. The Board of Appeal will accept clear faxes and photocopies while the Registry requires original documents.

Some of my clients have lost their documents from the aftercare component of the DUIL program and they are having difficulty obtaining replacements because their aftercare provider is not longer in business. If you are a repeat offender, not having a discharge summary from the alcohol treatment program can be a major obstacle at a hardship license appeal hearing. Therefore, the best practice is to safeguard any document you receive regarding your treatment and/or progress. Documentation is critical at any hardship license hearing and it is often difficult to obtain replacement documents months or years after the original was issued. Sometimes, you can get copies of documents from your probation officer. However, you should not rely on this. Not all probation officers maintain complete files after supervision is terminated.

Mass. Hardship License Roadblocks

There are many roadblocks to obtaining a hardship license in Massachusetts. The most common include not serving enough time, appealing a suspension for which there is no hardship relief available, having open court cases, trying to apply for a hardship license while a chemical test refusal suspension is in effect, having unpaid child support obligations, not having completed the required programs, and appealing while you have too many license suspensions in effect at once.

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will not consider you for a hardship license unless you have served enough suspension time and there is no evidence of operating a motor vehicle during this suspension or revocation period. For example, the Registry requires habitual traffic offenders to serve  1 year of the 4 year revocation. The RMV requires drug offenders to serve ½ of the suspension time. Those convicted of DUI with 1 prior conviction must serve 1 year of the 2 year suspension. Third offenders must serve 2 years of the 8 year revocation, and 4th offenders who have 10 year DUI revocations must serve 5 years of the revocation. After a hearing, the Board of Appeal can order the Registry to issue you hardship license even if you have not served the minimum suspension time.

You should ensure that you have met all required obligations prior to applying for a hardship license. This means that all citations, parking tickets, excise tax, and child support obligations must be paid in full. You cannot get a hardship license if you owe child support or excise tax and there are no exceptions to this rule.

If you need help figuring out of you qualify for a hardship license in Massachusetts, you should speak with a hardship license lawyer. Complete the contact form on this site or call for a free review of your situation.

There’s No Way Around the Ignition Interlock Requirement

Inquiry: I am inquiring on behalf of my son who had an operating under the influence (OUI) offense in April of 2013. It was marked as a second offense, although his first offense was 25 years ago when he was 21 years old. He is a full time marine mechanic and self-employed, needs his driver’s license to service his customers, haul boats, make money for his child support and to pick up and drop off his children for his visits with them. He was given a 45 days loss of license and 1 year probation and he had to attend alcohol school. Probation is up in April. He did complete the 24D alcohol course and his 45 day license suspension. It is my understanding that his penalty was what is handed out for a first offense. He does not have the money for several ignition interlock devices for his work truck, personal SUV to pick up his children and to haul customers boats for the various marinas that he contracts with. Is there any way to appeal the ignition interlock order, get him a hardship license or anything else so he can work and support his children? He really needs to do something about this soon, as March 1st starts the boating season for 2014 and he needs to be able to work. Thank you.

Answer: There are absolutely no exceptions to the ignition interlock requirement. Anyone whose license was suspended for OUI on or after January 1, 2006 who has a prior OUI conviction or alcohol program assignment is IID required for at least 2 years after getting a full license reinstatement and there is nothing that can be done to get around this requirement.

Old Out of State OUI Causes Massachusetts Suspension

This story shows how an old out of state OUI conviction can catch up with you in Massachusetts and cause the Registry to suspend your driver’s license.

I went down to the RMV in Revere, MA to add on a Hazmat endorsement on 12/11/13 and they told me I had citation pending in Georgia and I couldn’t get it until I had that cleared up. I called Turner County and the Judge their sent me a stamped letter with the seal saying this matter was cleared up. Then she called Atlanta DMV and told them to clear it out of the computer so everything will be all set. Atlanta called me on 12/13/13 and told me the matter was taken care of. I went in on 12/18 to take the test for my hazmat endorsement. I asked the clerk if we were good she said yes. I took the test but I didn’t pass. I figured I would study harder and come back another time and take it. Fast forward to 1/30/14. I went to Saugus square one mall to get an EZPass cause I plan on taking a trip to see my Dad in Atlanta. The lady at the EZpass place tells me my license has been revoked. What!!! I say of course. She says yep and of course she doesn’t know why. I go downtown this time to the DMV and I go and see a guy named Richard. He tells me that when I was in Revere they was supposed to tell me to go and see him from the get go and I now have to call Georgia DMV and get them to fax him a letter stating the date everything was cleared before 1/11/14. Which I already presented a letter stating this situation was cleared up. And he also says that his computer screen is telling him to tell me that I have to present him a letter from Alabama OUI i got in 8/1994 so he can put that back into the system which I received that OUI when I had a regular license not a CDL. He told me I had to call Alabama and get the court disposition with offense date, judgment date, charge, and finding or I had to get a complete driving record from Alabama showing OUI offense. My last driving record I received from Mass DMV said nothing and was clean no charges or offenses on it at all and I got that back in August of 2013. I’m just wondering why he is making me go through all this stuff when I did what they asked me to do so why in the hell did they not tell me all this the first time it seems a little shady to me. So I just wanted to know is there any way possible you could help me with my situation, because right now my license is suspended and I feel like it wouldn’t have if the Registry came through with the truth.

The Registry is requiring the driver to produce “proof of findings” regarding the out of state OUI offense in Alabama and the RMV hearings officer will not clear the NDR suspension until the driver produces the records from Alabama showing the OUI. The Registry will add that OUI onto his Massachusetts Driving Record. If he was on a Mass. License at the time of the offense or if he was a Mass. resident, once this is added to his record, he will have a 1 year OUI suspension and a 1 year suspension of his commercial driver’s license. A Registry Lawyer may be able to get the suspensions reduced or eliminated by appealing them.


The National Driver Register

Whenever you apply for a Massachusetts Driver’s License, learner’s permit, hardship license or renewal, the Registry will check the Problem Driver Pointer System (PDPS) to see if there is a matching record. The RMV may also check the database at other times, such as if you apply for a duplicate license or if you are appearing before the Board of Appeal for a hearing. The PDPS connects the Registry of Motor Vehicles to the National Driver Register (NDR), which is a computerized nationwide database of drivers who have lost their privileges due to operating under the influence, license fraud, being a habitual traffic offender, or some other similar suspension reason. All Registry Hearings Officers can perform National Driver Register Inquiry Checks on customers who appear before them.

The NDR system only pertains to passenger car licenses. There is a separate system known as the Commercial Driver Licensing Information System (CDLIS) which contains suspension, revocation, and denial information for CDL holders.

If a match is found between your name and date of birth and a record in the National Driver Register, the Registry will deny your license or learner’s permit application. If you already have a Massachusetts Driver’s License, the RMV will indefinitely suspend or revoke it until you meet certain reinstatement requirements. The Registry considers a match to have occurred when the first 4 letters in the last name, the first 3 letters in the first name, and the first letter in the middle name, as well as the date of birth, match with the information contained in the Registry’s computer.

When an NDR match is found, information is electronically obtained from the state where the suspension originated and the Mass. RMV will send out a suspension letter, advising the customer of the indefinite loss of his or her license in Massachusetts.

You can clear NDR suspensions by providing a recent driving record and clearance letter issued from the motor vehicle department which has you blocked in the NDR. In some cases, particularly those involving DUI convictions, the Registry will require you to provide court records showing the charges, outcome, offense date, and conviction date. Any records provided to the RMV to clear an out of state suspension cannot be more than 30 days old.

Clearing NDR suspensions can be frustrating and lead to other problems, because the Registry will treat out of state offenses as if they had occurred in Massachusetts. Therefore, an out of state conviction can result in the suspension of your Mass. license and other consequences such as an insurance premium increase. An out of sate infraction may be treated as a surchargeable event in Massachusetts and an out of state DUI conviction will count against you just as if it was a Massachusetts operating under the influence conviction.

If you need help clearing a National Driver Register Suspension, please call for a free consultation and review of your situation. After speaking with a lawyer, you will know exactly where you stand and what an attorney may be able to do to help.

Breathalyzer Refusal & Hardship Licensing Q&A


Hello – I received my 2nd OUI in March of 2013 and the case was settled in July of 2013. I blew into the Breathalyzer the first time but not the second. I am interested to find out if I can do anything to help me get back my license before the 5 years the registry says.


You cannot be considered for a 12 hour hardship license, or any license for that matter, unless and until you serve the 3 year chemical test refusal suspension. The only exception to this rule is if you were granted a second chance first offender disposition, which you were not. These are only granted when the 1st offense is more than 10 years old.

Thanks for getting back to me.  What you say below is exactly what the paper I have says.  While at the DUIL program one thing that was clear was that different registry’s have different rules.  A few people mentioned some sort of loophole that might allow you to be considered earlier since I took the breathalyzer on the first and not the second.  Specifically, they said to wait one and a half years before applying for the hardship?  Also, I talked to a hearing officer at the Boston registry in September and gave him the paper showing the 3 year chemical test suspension and asked what I could do and when I could apply for a temporary license.  He said wait one year, complete DUIL and the 24D aftercare then come apply.  Obviosuly I am trying to tilt things in my favor but I would also like to get an accurate estimate of when I might expect the license back because it effects so many thing (job, my kids, where we live,ect…).  In your experience is there anything we might do

There’s absolutely no way to get a hardship license in this situation while the 3 year chemical test refusal suspension is running. The Registry will not consider you for hardship relief and neither will the Board of Appeal.

The Board of Appeal states as follows: “All Breathalyzer/Chemical Test Refusal (CTR) revocations must be appealed through the court system (District Court) or addressed directly to the RMV. The Board does not have jurisdiction to hear CTR appeals”

The Mass. Ignition Interlock Device Law

The IID requirement in of Melanie’s Law, G. L. c. 90, § 24 ½, requires a driver whose license was suspended due to a program assignment or an OUI conviction to install an ignition interlock device (IID) if his driving history included a prior assignment or conviction at the time he applied to the Registry for reinstatement of his driver’s license.

When someone who has had his driver’s license suspended for an OUI conviction, or an assignment to an alcohol education program, applies to the Mass. RMV for a new license or to have his Massachusetts license or right to operate restored, and he has had a previous OUI conviction or alcohol program assignment, the new or restored license may only be issued upon the condition that the driver have an ignition interlock device  installed on every motor vehicle he owns, operates or leases for at least a 2 year period. This requirement, contained in amendments to the Massachusetts OUI law, and enacted as part of Melanie’s Law, was made effective on January 1, 2006.

As long as the event triggering the imposition of the IID requirement, that is, the application for a new or reinstated license, takes place after January 1, 2006, then Melanie’s Law applies prospectively and can permissibly take into account events occurring prior to its effective date, i.e., the previous drunk driving license suspensions,  DUI convictions,  and alcohol program assignments.

The Massachusetts IID requirement applies where a person is eligible to have his or her license reinstated prior to the effective date of Melanie’s Law but he or she did not apply for reinstatement until after Melanie’s Law goes into effect. The Massachusetts ignition interlock device requirement was determined to not be retroactive where the application for reinstatement of the license triggered IID requirement and application was made after statute went into effect.

You should contact a lawyer if you have questions regarding whether the ignition interlock device requirement applies to you, or if you have been accused of an ignition interlock device violation, which can trigger a 10 year or lifetime license revocation in Massachusetts.

RMV Requires Payment of Reinstatement Fees


Hello my name is Stephen. I am 29 Yrs old. I just came across a site and found your contact information. I will start by saying my Mass. Learner’s Permit was suspended in 2005. I received a $500.00 fine for an open container of alcohol violation, the container not being mine. I wasn’t even drinking. That being said, after 8 years I finally got the money to pay the fine of $540. After paying it here in town I was sent to Springfield ma to see a Registry of Motor Vehicle’s hearing’s officer. The hearing officer had stated I had a few convictions at $500 each, But I would only have to pay $500 to reinstate and this was right after paying $540. I had my permit when I first got the open container in 2005, but unsure if I had it with the other convictions. At one point back around the date of 2005. The Judge was wanting me to obtain my license. I do believe it was a condition at one point. I just feel that there should be something I can do about this. 8 years just to come up with $540. I am not working at the moment. Recently dealing with some medical issues involving a cancerous tumor within this yr. My Girlfriends mother recently had a stroke and MA law states she cannot operate a vehicle for at least 6 months. Everything about these convictions were 8+ years ago. I haven’t even had a drink in the last 3. My License is very important right now and am seeking ways around this if there is any. Whether it is court or something financial. On top of medical issues I do not have a stable place to live. Anyways I hope this was not too much.


Unfortunately, you cannot get your license reinstated in Massachusetts or a Mass. hardship license unless and until you pay all of the required reinstatement fees and outstanding obligations such as unpaid traffic tickets.

Lifetime Revocation with No Hardship License

Here’s one man’s plight:

In May of 2005, I was charged with and pleaded out to 3rd offense O.U.I. This was later upgraded to a 4th offense after closer examination several mouths later. My sentence was also increased to a 2 & 1/2 year 2 mandatory from straight 2 year sentence. Shortly after my release I received a letter in the mail from the RMV. The letter stated that I could be considered for a reinstatement of my license upon installation of an interlock Breathalyzer gadget with the stipulation of monthly recalibration at $90 per month. About 4 months or so after completing the interlock program and subsequent removal of the ignition interlock device, I received a letter that my license would be revoked from between 10 years to lifetime. This was due to 2 new laws passed some time months and years after both my arrest & conviction. I went to motor vehicle court of appeals and was told I had a lifetime revocation but could appeal in a couple of years for a hardship license. It is important to point out here that I have since become disabled due to a roofing accident & fall which left one vertebrae with multiple fractures and spinal cord damage. As well as a crushed foot & ankle. In order to do part time work in my field of carpentry I would need to use my car to transport tools and equipment. I am barely surviving on a $1,075 disability check. My rent for a small studio apartment is $650.00.

The unfortunate result:

Unfortunately for this repeat offender, there is no way that he will obtain a hardship license. He has a lifetime revocation with no possibility for hardship relief. When he committed his most recent operating under the influence offense, in May of 2005, lifetime lookback was in place, even though Melanie’s Law did not go into effect until October 28, 2005. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts had implemented lifetime look-back for DUI convictions several years earlier. Thus, 3 DUI convictions results in an 8 year revocation, 4 DUI convictions will result in a 10 year license loss, and 5 or more drunk driving convictions will automatically trigger a permanent lifetime license revocation.

Here, the Registry was unaware of some DUI convictions and this driver was allowed to reinstate his driver’s license with an ignition interlock device, because he was treated as a second offender. Once the Registry found multiple other OUI convictions, the Registry added them to his Registry record and how he’s revoked for life with no possibility of obtaining a hardship license, no matter how badly he needs one.