Hardship License hearings conducted by the Board of Appeal of the Massachusetts Division of Insurance begin with all those who are going to testify being sworn in and placed under oath. Next, those seeking hardship licenses are called up one by one. You are entitled to legal representation and if you have hired a lawyer, your attorney will appear before the Board with you and present your case.
The Registry of Motor Vehicles is represented by an advocate who presents the Registry’s case and explains why the Board should rule against you and not grant you a license. The RMV advocate will explain why your license has been suspended and provide the Registry’s reasoning for denying you a hardship license.
The RMV advocate will provide the Board of Appeal with your detailed Massachusetts Driver History which lists every single traffic violation, at fault accident, suspension citation, revocation, infraction, OUI charge, license reinstatement, road test, and automobile law violation conviction which is on file with the Registry since the day you got your license. It also contains a copy of each and every letter sent to you from the Registry and information regarding when and how you became licensed to operate in Massachusetts.
The Registry’s representative will also supply the Board members with a complete copy of your Massachusetts Criminal History which contains a record of every criminal charge, court appearance, and conviction. Your Massachusetts CORI also contains any G.L. c. 209A restraining orders, whether active or inactive.
When appearing before the Board of Appeal, you must be able to explain entries on your driving and criminal records, even though the entries may have nothing to do with alcohol, OUI, or driving. For example, a disorderly conduct charge or a domestic abuse incident involving alcohol will likely cause the Board to question your sobriety. A leaving the scene of an accident charge might cause the Board to believe that you left the scene because you were operating under the influence, and if you had been caught, the accident would have resulted in an OUI charge. Additionally, some Board members view operating after suspension charges as evidence of a conscious disregard for the law, even if the charge was dismissed or it resulted in a not guilty finding. The best way to avoid surprises is to carefully review your driving and criminal records prior to your hearing.
Information which the Registry supplies to the Board of Appeal is not limited to Massachusetts records. The Mass. RMV has computerized database access to Registry and Department of Motor Vehicles records in other states and the Registry advocate will search these databases in preparation for your hearing. Sometimes this results in an out of state offense being added to your Massachusetts record. You must be ready to explain any out of state findings at your hearing.
In some cases, the Registry obtains information from Massachusetts Trial Court files such as court dockets, police reports, probation conditions, and abstracts of criminal cases. If there is anything harmful to your case in these files, it is better to discuss it with your lawyer prior to the appeal hearing. In cases involving immediate threat suspensions, the Registry will have a copy of the police report and supply it to the appeals board. Likewise, in license fraud cases, the Board of Appeal will have a copy of the report from the Registry’s Special Investigations Unit and your lawyer will need to clearly explain what happened.
As you can see, the Board of Appeal will have a substantial amount of information to consider in addition to whatever you and your attorney provide. To maximize your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome, you should be prepared to address your driving and criminal histories, either directly or through counsel. I strongly recommend that you disclose any potential issues in advance of your hearing.