The laws regulating driver’s licenses in Massachusetts were enacted to protect the public from those drivers who present a risk, by keeping them off the road, and not to protect an individual’s driving privilege. The granting of hardship driving privileges is considered “extraordinary relief” and there is no vested right to receive such a license. Courts have repeatedly ruled that Massachusetts licensing laws are to be interpreted to establish the greatest public good, which is served by keeping habitual traffic offenders those convicted of OUI, drug offenses, and 7 surchargeable events off the road. Furthermore, no judge or court in the history of Massachusetts has ever ordered the Board of Appeal or the Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue a hardship license.
Most people do not understand the discretionary nature of hardship cases. They go into the Registry unprepared and the go to the Board of Appeal without a lawyer. They call me when the Board of Appeal has denied them a hardship license and they want help. At this stage of the proceedings, it is usually too late. If you’re serious about getting a hardship license, the time to hire a lawyer is BEFORE your Board of Appeal or Registry hearing. There is usually little that I can do after you make the mistake of trying to represent yourself and lose at the Board of Appeal.
In most cases, hardship licenses are not easy to get. The applicant must jump through various hoops and provide certain documentary information to the Registry or Board of Appeal. In addition to that, the driver must convince the Registry or Board not only that he or she has an extreme hardship, but also that returning the driver to the road will not endanger public safety. If there is any question in the Registry hearing officer’s mind, changes are that he or she will not grant a hardship license. This is because Registry hearings officers have their transactions audited and they are held accountable for everyone the put on the road.
Hardship licenses are not readily granted at the Board of Appeal either. In fact, the Board denies most applicants and the highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that difficulty commuting to and from work is not enough to get a hardship license in Massachusetts. In accordance with this ruling, the Board of Appeal has repeatedly stated that Massachusetts lawmakers contemplated this kind of inconvenience when they decided that long license suspensions are necessary to protect the public from dangerous drivers. Given the difficulties associated with getting a hardship license, hiring a lawyer can make the difference between winning and losing.
When it comes to issuing hardship licenses for repeat drunk drivers, the Board of Appeal wants to see substantial evidence of rehabilitation such as participation alcohol treatment programs and documentation of active participation in Alcoholics Anonymous groups or recognized self-help programs.