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.

Your RMV Hearing Questions Answered

How is the RMV hearing different from my conviction in criminal court?

Subject to review by the Board of Appeal, the RMV has the ultimate jurisdiction over your driving privilege, and thus has the ultimate say over driver’s license suspensions and revocations.

Driver looking in mirror. Get your RMV hearing questions answered.The RMV suspension or revocation is an administrative action taken against your driving privilege only. The suspension or revocation following a conviction in court is a mandatory action in addition to jail, fines, or other criminal penalties.

I’ve just been arrested for DUI or drunk driving. What happens now?

The officer who arrested you is required by law to immediately forward a copy of the completed notice of suspension or revocation form and any driver license taken into possession, along with a sworn report, to the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). The RMV automatically conducts an administrative review, which includes an examination of the officer’s report, the suspension or revocation order, and any test results.

Related: Out of State DUI Q&A

When I was arrested, the officer confiscated my driver’s license. How do I get it back?

If you failed a breath test, you will have a 30 day administrative per se license suspension and you can reinstate at the expiration of the 30 day suspension period upon payment of the $500.00 reinstatement fee.

If you refused to submit to a breath test, your license will be automatically suspended for 180 days up to life. You have a right to appeal the refusal suspension within 15 days of the suspension. In all cases, you must see a Registry Hearing Officer and go through the hearing process.

The officer said I refused to take a chemical test. What does this mean?

You are required by law to submit to a chemical test to determine the alcohol or drug content of your blood. If you refused to take a blood or breath test after being arrested for DUI and being requested to submit to the test, you will have your driver’s license automatically suspended or revoked for the refusal.

Related: How to Win Your RMV Refusal Hearing

How to Win Your RMV Refusal Hearing

While retaining a RMV attorney is usually the best way to increase your chances of winning your breath test refusal hearing, there is no reason you cannot do it yourself with a little preparation. We have compiled key information which you can use to challenge your breathalyzer refusal suspension.

4 Steps to Winning Your Refusal Hearing

There are four steps you must follow to win your refusal hearing.

  1. Spend an hour or two reviewing the law and procedures applicable to all hearings. Pay particular attention to the material dealing with the statutory requirements and elements of a successful chemical test refusal appeal, as they will help you develop and establish the record necessary to succeed.
  2. Master the four elements the RMV needs to prove at the refusal hearing to uphold the suspension of your license so you can begin to focus on the defenses that can actually win the case for you.
  3. Review the defenses typically available to a refusal hearing and identify the ones you can use based on the facts of your own case.
  4. Prepare a written plan of attack so that your case is organized, you won’t forget anything, and you can stay calm and focused no matter what happens at the hearing. It is imperative that you put the helpful facts on the record at the Registry hearing, because later hearings, such as the District Court Appeal, are limited to the record developed at the RMV.

Breathalyzer test refusal

If despite your best efforts the hearing officer upholds the suspension of your license for 6 months up to life, you will have hopefully maximized your chances of getting the adverse decision overturned at the District or Superior Court.

Understand the Basics of all RMV Hearings

Many of the issues you will encounter in an admin per se hearing are common to all RMV hearings.

For example, every RMV hearing is governed by specific regulations. You should view this hearing as your opportunity to tell your “side of the story” and to present evidence that is favorable to your case. You are allowed to submit sworn affidavits and documentary evidence.

Know the Elements of a Refusal Hearing

At a refusal hearing, the RMV must prove four things to suspend your license:

  1. That the officer had reason to believe you were DUI;
  2. That you were lawfully arrested for DUI; and
  3. That you were advised if you refused to complete a chemical test that your license would be suspended or revoked; and
  4. That you refused or failed to complete a chemical test.

The first two elements of a refusal case really come down to the same issue: did the officer break the law in stopping and arresting you? The third element focuses on the way the officer advised you of the consequences of refusing (called the “admonishment”), and is a frequent topic of appeals actions.

Your Actual Refusal

The final element is your actual refusal, but note that it is more broadly worded to include “failure to complete.” That language puts the burden on the motorist to complete the test – you don’t actually have to refuse to be considered as having refused for suspension purposes. Also, refusals must be properly witnessed and documented.

If the hearing officer fails to address these elements (or if you refute any of them when it’s your turn to present your case), the RMV cannot legally suspend your license. Remember that the RMV has the burden of proving these elements; you do not have to disprove them. Sometimes,  just objecting to the evidence may prevent the RMV from relying on it to rule against you. The formal rules of evidence do not apply to refusal hearings. However, the evidence must have some level of reliability to be introduced and it can be challenged in some situations.

Why You Need A Lawyer For RMV Hearings

Massachusetts drivers facing an OUI offense and those who have been convicted of a DUI or charged with other driving offenses will need to apply to the Registry of Motor Vehicles for License Reinstatement and undergo the hearings process, this requirement applies whether the driver has served the full suspension or he is seeking early reinstatement. RMV hearings are sometimes complex and follow specific administrative rules and laws. Drivers are far more likely to have these hearings go their way when they are well-represented by a MA RMV attorney who understands these procedures and how the law can be applied to a specific hearing.

Contesting A Suspension

When your driver’s license is suspended, or “revoked,” there are very specific procedures and rules that must be followed under the law in order for the suspension to be legitimate. However, the legitimacy of most suspensions is not automatically a question of law. This means that your suspension may need to be contested under the scrutiny of a trained RMV lawyer who will advocate for you and attempt to show the hearings officer why the suspension is not warranted under Massachusetts law.

The law also provides each person with the right to appeal any RMV hearing decision. If the hearings officer does not decide in your favor, you and your attorney will have 10 days to file an appeal with the Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liability & Bonds. This appeal is procedurally similar to a civil action, and rulings by the Board can be further appealed to a superior court. The 10 day hearing requirement is not followed and the Board will hear cases filed outside of the 10 day appeal window.

However, if you are suspended on a Chemical Test Refusal (CTR) for an underlying DUI arrest, you will have to fight, and win your case either at the initial RMV hearing in Boston, or in the court of jurisdiction in order to get your driving privileges reinstated. The Board of Appeal will not hear breathalyzer refusal appeals and the appeal paperwork clearly announces this fact.

**You have only 15 days from the DUI date of arrest to apply for an RMV suspension hearing for CTR. **

Under the current MA law, no hardship, limited or restricted driving privilege is permitted after a CTR violation, except in first offender or second chance first offender DUI cases. You either fight your case to win your full license back, or you will have to serve the full revocation period without any driving at all, as the law currently stands in Massachusetts.

Cases that we often represent before the Board of Appeals include Habitual Traffic Offender suspensions, Out-of-State revocations, and OUI and CTR revocations. Most drug offense license suspensions were eliminated by the enactment of legislation.

RMV Hearings to Get Your License Back After a DUI

There are many RMV hearings you can go through after being charged with driving under the influence. They include:

Each of these works differently, but they all share one important point: Drivers are statistically much more likely to have hearings go their way when represented by an OUI attorney who is highly experienced in RMV hearings.

As an example, if you are contesting a suspension resulting from a 3rd DUI offense, your OUI attorney may be able to present favorable evidence during a reinstatement hearing at the Registry. However, your DUI lawyer might not be familiar with the nuances of Registry hearing procedures and you may be better served by someone who understands how the RMV operates when it comes to suspension and revocation appeals and license reinstatements, which can be confusing to those who do not handle these matters on a regular basis.

Driver’s License Reinstatement

The reinstatement process can be complicated, technical, and time-sensitive especially for repeat offenders. Without taking the proper steps to restore your MA driving privileges after each suspension period, you risk having problems down the road and will encounter barriers not only in MA, but also in any other states in which you want to drive.

Massachusetts drivers facing an Operating Under The Influence (OUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), charge and those who have lost their right to drive due to OUI convictions, accidents, or surcharges will need to apply to the Registry of Motor Vehicles for License Reinstatement.

In order to address your license suspensions, you may need to apply for a reinstatement by going through the Registry hearing process. In cases where there are driving-related criminal charges, you may have to wait until the charges are resolved prior to seeking a driver’s license reinstatement. Also, you may have to serve a required minimum license suspension period.

Driver's license reinstatementIn each case, once a RMV hearing officer approves you to reinstate, you will be required to pay the required reinstatement fee to the Registry. You cannot pay this fee until your reinstatement has been approved.

In some cases, the RMV might take the position that reinstatement is 100% at their discretion, however this does not always hold true. Massachusetts statutes have specific laws in place that detail what must happen for a license suspension (also called revocation) to be valid. Laws also determine the reinstatement requirements that may be imposed at suspension hearing, limited license hearing and/or hardship license hearing.

Furthermore, the law provides the right to appeal any unfavorable RMV decision to the Board of Appeals, with the exception of a Chemical Test Refusal hearing decision, which the Board of Appeal states  be appealed to the District or Superior court. In this instance, if the RMV Hearings Officer decides against restoring your right to operate, a determined and experienced RMV attorney will hold your best shot at getting things turned around through an appeal at the Board or in court.

RMV Reinstatement and Alcohol Education Programs

If facing an OUI violation, many will seek to restore their driving privileges either in a limited or unrestricted capacity through the RMV. There are several factors a Registry Hearings Officer will look at to make an early restoration decision, and one of those key factors is whether the driver has successfully dealt with the underlying cause of the OUI. In other words, they look to see if an individual has sought alcohol or drug use education by an approved provider.

For a limited, hardship license – also called a Cinderella license, the hearing officer will also look at many other factors that include:

  • whether you can successfully document the need to drive a vehicle versus taking public transportation
  • if there is any evidence that you had been driving during your suspension
  • whether your alcohol education or treatment program reports you are low-risk for repeating, as well as other very specific certifications and requirements which apply to those with more than one DUI conviction or program assignment.

Driving on a suspended license is a criminal offense. If your driver’s license has been revoked or suspended for any reason, you cannot drive in Massachusetts or anywhere else. Instead of risking criminal fines and possible jail time, get your get your license reinstated legally with our help.

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.

Get in touch with the Law Office of Brian E. Simoneau to see how we can help today!

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.