Hardship Licenses for DUI 3rd Offenders

If you are a Massachusetts resident with 3 DUI convictions, you will have an 8 year OUI 3rd offense license revocation. You can be considered for a hardship license. However, you will likely be denied at the Registry and forced to go before the Board of Appeal. The Registry requires completion of a specific 90 day residential (in-patient) alcohol program as a condition for the issuance of a 3rd offender hardship license and few applicants have this required program.

Fortunately, the Board of Appeal can grant you a hardship license even if the Registry initially refuses to so. Massachusetts law gives the Board the legal authority to order the Registry to issue a license. Getting one of these orders from the appeals board will require scheduling and attending an evidentiary hearing before the 3 member Board. The Board members will be looking for certain documentation and information showing that the Appellant has a legitimate need to drive and his or her alcohol or drug issues have been brought under control such that granting a license would not represent a threat to public safety.

It is strongly recommended to have a lawyer represent you at the Board of Appeal because this is often your one and only opportunity to be granted hardship relief. If the Board denies your appeal, you may be forced to serve the remainder of your revocation period with no driver’s license. This often occurs because the person seeking hardship relief is unable to demonstrate, to the Board’s satisfaction, that he or she qualifies for relief and that any alcohol or substance abuse problem is being effectively addressed so that there is a low probability of relapse or recidivism.

There are many other things that can derail a hardship license appeal such as recent evidence of operation, unpaid child support, being suspended in another state, unresolved criminal charges, open cases, active warrants or defaults, insufficient documentation regarding alcohol or drug treatment, inadequate “sober time,” and/or violations of terms and conditions of probation.

If you are facing an 8 year license revocation as a third offender, please contact my office to discuss your case and how a hardship license attorney may be able to help you get back on the road, so that you can go to work and continue to support yourself and your family.

Initial Start Ignition Interlock Violations

The Registry’s Ignition Interlock Department is now penalizing drivers for initial start ignition interlock violations. Previously, the Registry would only take action on missed or failed rolling re-tests. Now, failed initial start tests are resulting in Ignition Interlock Violation Hearings.

An initial start failure occurs when the ignition interlock device detects alcohol above the BAC level of .02. When this occurs, the ignition interlock device (IID) may go into a “holding pattern” for a period of thirty (30) minutes. During this 30-minute waiting period, the driver should thoroughly rinse his or her mouth out with water and ensure that there are no chemicals or anything in the vehicle which could be falsely registering as alcohol.

Once the 30-minute waiting period has expired, the IID user will be given another opportunity to provide a breath sample. If this breath sample results in a reading above .02, the device will go into lockout status and it must be brought into a service provider to be downloaded within 48 hours. The vehicle will not start unless and until the breath sample registers at or below 02.

The Registry has interpreted G.L. c. 90 § 24 ½ to allow it to impose 10-year license revocations whenever an Ignition Interlock Device registers an alcohol reading of greater than .02 on two or more occasions or whenever the IID prevents a vehicle from starting on at least 2 occasions. In those situations, the Registry is now sending hearing notices to its customers and notices of intent to suspend, with the indefinite Ignition Interlock Violation suspension being scheduled to go into effect 10 days after the scheduled IVO hearing.

The Registry’s Ignition Interlock Department has moved from 25 Newport Ave Extension in Quincy to the Registry’s main branch at 136 Blackstone Street in Boston. All ignition interlock violation cases are heard there. The hearings are electronically recorded and you have the right to be represented by a lawyer, which I highly recommend. My office has been very successful in handling Ignition Interlock Violations.

If you experience a “false positive” ignition interlock violation, you should immediately document what happened and report the incident to your IID vendor. Some clients have protected themselves by requesting a comparison breath test from their local police department or urgent care healthcare provider. Not all police departments will comply with a breath test request. You can also purchase your own handheld breath test device.

The Interlock Program places the burden on the customer to take the steps necessary to properly document and report an unwarranted violation. One way to do this is to promptly call the Interlock Department and speak with a hearing officer. You should describe exactly what happened and include the exact date and time. You should follow any instructions the hearing officer provides.

Transportation Network Driver Certificates

Having too many violations on your record or being convicted of DUI or operating after suspension or revocation of your driver’s license can have serious and long-lasting consequences in Massachusetts, especially if you are a professional driver or you drive for Uber or Lyft. These “ride sharing” and transportation network companies are now legally required to conduct background checks on their drivers and certain offenses will prevent the issuance of a background check certificate, which is required as a condition of employment as a Uber, Lyft, or other TNC driver. It is illegal to drive for a TNC in Massachusetts without a valid transportation network driver certificate and this requires passing a criminal and driving record check. background investigation.

For example, if you have two or more DUI, leaving the scene, or related convictions, including cases that were continued without a finding, you will be permanently banned from driving for a transportation network company in Massachusetts.

Single convictions or CWOFs for reckless driving, negligent operation, operating so as to endanger, use of a motor vehicle without authority, and making a false statement to the RMV will also operate as disqualifiers, for a period of seven years. A Habitual Traffic Offender revocation operates as a 7 year disqualifier.

Having your driver’s license suspended or revoked for reasons related to the operation of a motor vehicle will disqualify you from driving for Uber and Lyft for a period of 7 years.

You cannot drive for a TNC such as  Uber or Lyft if you have an ignition interlock device installed in your motor vehicle.

Convictions, including CWOFs, for certain sex offenses, violent crimes, fraud, exploitation offenses, and robbery will result in permanent disqualification. Being a registered sex offender will prevent an individual from driving for a TNC in Massachusetts, as will active arrest warrants, open cases, and a lack of experience as a licensed driver in Massachusetts.

You will be denied a transportation network driver certificate if your driving record includes more than 4 traffic violations or any major traffic violation, as defined by the division of insurance, in the 3 year period immediately preceding your record check.

Driving and criminal record checks are required for drivers at least twice per year. This means that you are at risk of losing your certificate based on your driving and criminal record, even if you passed an initial check.

If you have appeared before the Board of Appeal and obtained a hardship license or early reinstatement of your full license, that does not mean that the offense which triggered the suspension cannot be used against you or that the license suspension does not disqualify you from being issued a transportation network driver certificate.

No Hardship License for Child Support Suspension – No Exceptions

license_suspensionIf you owe child support to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, you may be at risk of having your driver’s license indefinitely revoked by the Registry of Motor Vehicles. G.L. c. 90, § 22(g) requires MassDOT to indefinitely and automatically revoke a person’s driver’s license once the Massachusetts DOR has made a final determination regarding child support delinquency and the delinquent amount due remains unpaid. The law provides no right to a Registry hearing regarding this type of license revocation. Instead, an appeal hearing can be held at the Mass. Dept. of Revenue. This DOR Child Support Enforcement (CSE) hearing, which is held pursuant to G.L. c. 119A § 16 is the only avenue available to contest this type of mandatory license revocation. Absolutely no hardship license is available while a non-payment of child support revocation is in effect and there are no exceptions to this rule.  Neither the Registry nor the Division of Insurance Board of Appeal will grant hardship relief for this type of license loss and it makes no sense to hire a Registry lawyer to fight this type of suspension.

Child support arrearages are often the result of unfavorable divorce or other probate and family court judgments. The best away to avoid this type of situation is to hire the best divorce lawyer you can find, such as Attorney Mary Jo Hart, whose office is located at 290 West Main Street in Northborough, Massachusetts.

Once you have addressed the delinquency with the Child Support Enforcement Unit of the Massachusetts Dept. of Revenue (DOR), your license will not automatically be reinstated. Instead, you must pay a $100.00 reinstatement fee to resolve the indefinite revocation. The DOR is supposed to electronically notify the RMV that the delinquency has been addressed. If this does not happen automatically, you can bring a copy of the DOR release to a Registry Hearings Officer for entry into the MassDOT computer system.

Again, do not bother trying to get a hardship license if the Mass. DOR has revoked your license. No hardship licenses are available in this situation and, unfortunately, there are absolutely no exceptions. Instead, you must address the issue through the state Department of Revenue.

Out of State DUI Convictions & your Massachusetts License

Getting your Massachusetts Driver’s License reinstated from an out of state DUI suspension or revocation can be a very frustrating process. This is because you must satisfy the reinstatement requirements of the jurisdiction where the DUI offense occurred as well as the requirements of MassDOT.

You cannot get a Massachusetts Hardship or Cinderella license while your right to operate a motor vehicle is under suspension or revocation in any other state or jurisdiction. This means that you cannot get an DUI in New Hampshire, for example, and then get a Mass. Hardship License while the State of New Hampshire has your driving privileges under suspension in that state. Instead, you must satisfy all outstanding obligations to the State of New Hampshire, which may include an SR-22 Insurance Certificate, which proves to the Financial Responsibility Section of the NH DMV that you have adequate liability coverage.

You can reinstate in Massachusetts only when your outstanding obligations to the other state has been satisfied. However, your troubles usually do not end there. This is because the Mass. Registry will penalize you for an out of state DUI conviction or motor vehicle infraction as if the incident had occurred here in Massachusetts. This means that in addition to whatever penalty you served in the state where the conviction occurred, you must serve the penalty imposed by Massachusetts Law.

Fortunately, in many cases, there are ways to avoid or reduce the suspension imposed by MassDOT for out of state convictions. However, this requires a Registry Hearing and situations like this must be handled on a case-by-case basis. The first step in this process is to collect all relevant court documentation from the state where the offense occurred. Examples of important items to collect and retain include a copy of the court docket or an abstract showing the charges, offense date, disposition date, and outcome of the case.

If you need assistance dealing with an out of state DUI, please contact my office for a consultation and review of your situation. My office has successfully worked with out of state DUI lawyers to achieve the best outcome in these cases, so as to avoid or reduce the suspension and revocation consequences.

 

The Connecticut Pretrial Alcohol Education Program

ct_licenseFirst offenders in the State of Connecticut may be eligible to participate in the Pretrial Alcohol Education Program, which is administered by the Connecticut Superior Court. This program consists of at least 10 alcohol or substance abuse counseling sessions and a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Panel. The program is overseen by the state and it is delivered by twelve authorized providers. Eligibility for this DUI program is limited first offenders and second offenders whose first drunk driving offense is more than 10 years old. A substance abuse evaluation is mandatory as a condition of entry into the program.  Successful completion of this Pretrial Alcohol Education Program results in the DUI charges being dismissed by the court. This dismissal will occur approximately one year after your assignment to the AEP. Dismissal is mandatory upon successful completion of the program.

The goal of the Pretrial Alcohol Education Program is to reduce DUI recidivism through education. One of the benefits of this pre-trial diversion program to participants is that participation is possible without having to plead guilty and successful program completion will result in a dismissal of the charges by the court.  When your DUI is dismissed, it will be removed from your criminal record. However, the fact that you were assigned to and completed the AEP will remain on your driving record and this may have consequences for licensing and insurance.

Unfortunately, if you are a Massachusetts resident who commits a DUI in the State of Connecticut, and the Registry of Motor Vehicles discovers or is notified of your DUI arrest and resulting assignment to an alcohol education program, the Registry will treat it as an OUI conviction and suspend your Massachusetts Driver’s License for one year as a first offense, two years for a second offense, eight years for a third offense, ten years for a fourth offense, and life for a fifth or subsequent offense.

Like Massachusetts, Connecticut offers hardship licenses to those offenders who meet the state’s qualifications. This Connecticut alcohol education program is similar to the Massachusetts 24D program, which is available to first offenders and “second chance” first offenders, whose prior DUI conviction occurred more than 10 years before the second offense.

Habitual Traffic Offender Appeals

hto_revocationThe Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will revoke your driver’s license / right to operate a motor vehicle in Massachusetts for a period of 4 years, pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 22F, if you are determined to be a Habitual Traffic Offender under Massachusetts law. You can be considered a Habitual Traffic Offender if you have 3 major violations such as drunk driving, operating after suspension, reckless driving, operating so as to endanger, or leaving the scene of an accident within any five (5) year period.

You can also be considered a Habitual Traffic Offender, and have your license revoked for 4 years, if you have 12 minor violations in any 5-year period. Minor violations are motor vehicle infractions such as speeding, failure to stop, improper passing, failure to stay within marked lanes, failure to yield to a pedestrian, etc… At fault accidents do not count towards Massachusetts Habitual Traffic Offender revocations.

If MassDOT has declared you to be a Habitual Traffic Offender and your license or right to drive has been revoked, you must stop operating motor vehicles until your license is reinstated. When you are eligible for reinstatement, the RMV will require you to pay a $500.00 reinstatement fee.

You have the legal right to a hearing prior to your license being revoked under the Habitual Traffic Offender law and you have the right to be represented by counsel. The Registry only holds HTO revocation hearings at the following branches: Braintree, Worcester, Springfield, Lawrence, Fall River, Wilmington and 136 Blackstone St., Boston, MA, 3rd Floor. You must appear by 11:00 A.M. should you desire a hearing.

Issues at Massachusetts HTO hearings are limited to the accuracy of your driving record or the HTO law incorrectly applied. To challenge the accuracy of your record, you must provide a certified motor vehicle abstract or finding from the court showing that the judgement is not correct. A lawyer may be able to assist you with this. The HTO hearing will not address whether you agree with the court finding. There is no requirement to attend the Registry hearing if your record is accurate and the revocation is legally valid.

The RMV will not consider you for a hardship license or early reinstatement until you have served at least one full year the four-year revocation period. When applying for a hardship license at the Registry, there must be absolutely no evidence of vehicle operation.

You can appeal Habitual Traffic Offender revocations to the Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liability Policies and Bonds, which is located at 1000 Washington Street, 8th Floor, Boston, Massachusetts. A lawyer may be able to assist you with your appeal.

MADD to hold Rally at Statehouse

Tomorrow at 10:00 AM, Mothers Against Drunk Driving will be holding a rally and ignition interlock demonstration on the steps of the Massachusetts Statehouse. The purpose of this event is to demonstrate support for Senate Bill 2445 which will eliminate all DUI hardship license waiting periods and allow repeat offenders to immediately seek license reinstatements. The Bill eliminates all DUI statutory minimum suspension periods, regardless of the number of drunk driving convictions an offender has. It allows the Registry to issue ignition interlock restricted licenses to all drunk drivers, regardless of the number of prior convictions and/or chemical test refusals.

If enacted, this bill will allow those whose licenses have been revoked for life due to breathalyzer refusals to be considered for the immediate issuance of full time driver’s license. Currently repeat offenders are prohibited from being issued a driver’s license while breathalyzer refusal suspensions are in effect. This proposed legislation will allow all those who have refused a breath test, regardless of the person’s driving record, to be immediately considered for the issuance of an ignition interlock restricted license, with no minimum mandatory waiting period.

Senate Bill 2445 will allow those who have been refused licenses by the Registry of Motor Vehicles or Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance to be re-considered for licensure, without having to serve any additional suspension time.

This legislation will allow repeat DUI offenders to satisfy the Registry’s alcohol education program requirement by simply enrolling in the 24D 1st offender program. Repeat drunk drivers will no longer be required to complete the 14 day in-patient residential program in Tewksbury or a 90 day in-patient alcohol program. Instead, if the new law passes, the first offender out-patient program will be acceptable, no matter how many DUI convictions the offender has on his or her record.

Senate to Debate Ignition Interlock License Bill

On Saturday, July 23, 2016 the Massachusetts State Senate is scheduled to debate a Bill which would remove the waiting periods for hardship licenses and allow those who refused to submit to a chemical test or those who fail a breathalyzer test to immediately obtain ignition-interlock-restricted licenses.

If passed, the law will also allow those convicted of DUI, DUI causing serious bodily injury, and Motor Vehicle Homicide involving alcohol, to appeal their licenses suspensions to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and be considered for full time license reinstatements, without having to serve any minimum-mandatory suspension periods. Any license issued under this law would have a mandatory ignition interlock device (IID) requirement.

Under the proposed legislation, the Registry retains the authority to establish requirements and restrictions in addition to mandatory use of the IID. The proposed legislation requires completion of any jail or prison sentence as well as enrollment in an approved alcohol education program.

For those DUI offenders who are on probation, any violation of the terms and conditions of probation would result in the immediate revocation of the ignition interlock license.

Currently, repeat DUI offenders in Massachusetts are required to install a certified ignition interlock device in any vehicle which the repeat offender owns, leases, or operates. This law appears to remove that requirement and it only requires IID installation in any vehicle which the drunk driving offender operates. Therefore, it appears possible for a driver with an ignition interlock license to be able to legally own and lease a vehicle not equipped with a certified IID, so long as the offender does not drive that vehicle.

If enacted, this legislation will allow repeat DUI offenders to be considered for ignition interlock licenses regardless of the number of prior drunk driving convictions the offender has. It also makes ignition interlock licenses available to those who have been convicted of vehicular homicide and those who have permanently lost their driving privileges due to breathalyzer refusals with multiple prior operating under the influence convictions.

Once the Bill is passed in the Senate, it still needs to be passed in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and signed by the Governor. Assuming that it passes and is enacted, it is scheduled to take effect on January 1st of next year.

Common Hardship License Denial Reasons

There are many reasons why you may be denied a hardship license either at the Registry of Motor Vehicles or the Board of Appeal. Some denial reasons include: recent evidence of operating after suspension, the lack of adequate paperwork or documentary evidence, recent criminal activity, probation violations, a high breathalyzer reading, prior hardship relief, a high risk of recidivism / relapse, failure to satisfy treatment goals, a court-ordered license suspension, being blocked in the National Driver Register (NDR) and an inadequate showing of hardship.

Effective case preparation is essential to avoid being denied a hardship license for one of the above-listed reasons. One of the services that my office provides to our clients is a complete review of your situation prior to your Board of Appeal hearing. We work to anticipate and address potential problems and pitfalls as part of a case screening process. This will reduce your chances of being refused relief and increase your chances of success before the Board.

You should satisfy all unpaid obligations prior to your hearing before the Board of Appeal. This includes parking tickets, excise tax, and registry defaults. Any relief afforded will be contingent upon satisfying these obligations and paying them in advance of your hearing shows responsibility and that you are serious about obtaining a hardship license.

You should be prepared to explain anything that appears on your criminal record and any open or closed restraining orders. The Registry’s advocate and the Board members will be on the lookout for anything that suggests an alcohol problem or substance abuse issue, even if it does not relate to the operation of a motor vehicle.

Between the time your appeal is filed and your hearing is scheduled, you will have time to review your driving record, criminal record, Registry documents and your court records. My office can assist with this review as part of the case preparation process. Do not take a chance before the Board of Appeal without adequate preparation. Appearing unprepared could result in denial which would require you to serve the full suspension with no relief.