Immediate Threat Indefinite Revocations

If the Mass. Registry receives information indicating that your continued operation of a Motor Vehicle in Massachusetts would result in an immediate threat to public safety, the Registrar has the right to immediately revoke your driver’s license for an indefinite period of time. The purpose of this procedure is to promptly remove a driver from the roadway if he or she has been determined to represent an immediate threat to the safety of the public. MassDOT indefinitely revokes approximately 1,500 licenses each year under the immediate threat law.

Immediate threat suspensions are not confined to driver’s licenses. This means that the RMV can revoke your vehicle’s registration if a hearings officer determines that continued operation of the motor vehicle would pose an immediate threat to public safety.

When your license or right to operate is suspended under the immediate threat law, the Registry will review your entire driving record and a history of poor driving is a factor that may count against you at a reinstatement hearing. A history showing surchargeable accidents and responsible findings for civil motor vehicle law infractions can be used to justify the revocation of your license.  These revocations can also be based on a serious single event, even where the driver has an otherwise clean record.

Immediate threat suspensions result from car accidents, police pursuits, dangerous driving, erratic operation, medical conditions, seizures, and loss of consciousness while operating a vehicle. These suspensions are initiated by law enforcement officials or healthcare providers.  Often an immediate threat suspension is tied to a criminal case. In these situations, you must generally resolve the criminal case prior to trying to reinstate your license from the indefinite immediate threat revocation.

Getting the criminal charges dismissed or a not guilty verdict does not mean that the immediate threat license suspension will go away. The standard of proof in criminal court is “beyond a reasonable doubt” and the standard of proof at the Registry is the preponderance of the evidence, which means “more likely than not.” Also, RMV hearings are administrative in nature and the technicalities associated with criminal court proceedings do not apply. Finally, these suspensions are not designed as punishment. Instead, they are supposed to protect the public from an allegedly dangerous driver. Thus, even if the criminal case was resolved in your favor, you will still have to fight to get your license back.

Unfortunately, no hardship licenses are available for these suspensions. You will either get a full reinstatement or the indefinite revocation will remain in effect. The rationale for the hardship license prohibition is that if a driver is a danger, he or she should not be allowed to drive at all, not even for a 12 hour period.

National Driver Register (NDR) Suspensions

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 (MCSIA) requires all state Motor Vehicle Departments to verify a license holder or license applicant’s driving record through checks of both the National Driver Register (NDR) and Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS), prior to issuing or renewing a driver’s license or CDL. This means that you cannot have your license suspended in one state and apply for a license in another state to avoid the suspension or revocation.

Every state has to check the National Driver Register and it does not matter whether a particular state is a member of any driver’s license compact or non-resident violator compact. The National Driver Register (NDR) is a central computerized database which contains information regarding drivers whose license or right to operate a motor vehicle has been denied, revoked suspended, or canceled, for a valid reason, or those individuals who have been convicted of enumerated serious traffic-related violations, such as operating under the influence (OUI).

When a Motor Vehicle Department in any state, including the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, discovers that an individual has a status of “ineligible” or “blocked” in the NDR, the DMV cannot issue or renew the person’s driver’s license. This requires the driver to contact the state which placed the block on his or her NDR record to have it removed. Under this system, Motor Vehicle Departments can avoid granting driver’s licenses to those individuals whose records contain serious violations such as DUI or those who have lost their right to drive in other states.

If you have an NDR block on your record, you are entitled to be provided with the reference number and contact information for the agency which has placed the NDR block on your record. Sometimes these blocks are the product of identity theft, inaccurate information, or another disqualified individual having the same name and date of birth as you. Unfortunately, the Registry does not work on the honor system and it will be up to you to prove that the block is invalid.

If the NDR block is valid, you must work with the state where the block has originated to satisfy whatever outstanding obligations that you have in that state so that you can reinstate your right to operate there. There is nothing that the Massachusetts RMV can do for you until your record is clear in the NDR and the hold is removed by the motor vehicle agency that initiated it. You can usually remove an NDR block by completing the required alcohol or drug education programs, paying any outstanding fines and/or fees, producing an SR-22 insurance certificate, or simply serving the suspension time required.

Having the NDR hold removed does not mean that your license or right to operate in Massachusetts will be automatically reinstated. If you committed an out of state motor vehicle violation, such as DUI, while you were a Mass. resident or held a Mass. License, the RMV will impose a new suspension in addition to whatever suspension was imposed in the state where the violation occurred. This is because the RMV is required to treat out of state violations as if they had happened here in Massachusetts, for license suspension purposes. If this happens to you, it may be possible to get the suspension reduced or get a hardship license. However, this can only be done after the National Driver Register Indefinite Suspension has been cleared. Contact a lawyer for more information.

Massachusetts Administrative Per Se License Suspensions

If you were arrested for operating under the influence of liquor in Massachusetts and your blood alcohol level (BAL) was at or above .08, pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 24(1)(f)(2), the Registry of Motor Vehicles will suspend your driver’s license or right to operate for a period of 30 days. This suspension is referred to as an administrative per se suspension or a breathalyzer failure suspension. Absolutely no hardship, work, or Cinderella license is authorized by law, unless your criminal case has been properly disposed of pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 24D, which applies only to OUI 1st offenders or “2nd chance first offenders.”

You have a right to a hearing administrative per se suspensions in the district court where you were charged with DUI. You must appeal within ten (10) days of your suspension to the district court having jurisdiction where the DUI arrest occurred. The only question to be decided at this suspension appeal hearing is whether, after a reasonable period of time from your OUI arrest,  a chemical analysis of your breath of blood showed a reading at or above .08 for a person over 21 years of age or older and a BAC reading at or above .02 for a person under 21 years of age.

Massachusetts administrative per se suspensions will expire by operation of law at the end of the 30 day suspension period or with the disposition of the criminal operating under the influence (DUI) case,  whichever occurs first. In either case, prior to operating a motor vehicle, you must pay a reinstatement fee to the Registry of Motor Vehicles before your license is reactivated and your right to drive is reinstated.

It usually does not make sense to appeal these administrative per se suspensions to the Board of Appeal because by the time your Board of Appeal hearing is held, the 30 day suspension will be over with. If you lose your drunk driving case, you will have a new suspension based on your prior record.

Suspensions & Revocations for Allowing Improper Operation

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will penalize you for knowing allowing an unlicensed driver or someone whose license is suspended or revoked to operate your motor vehicle. Criminalized as part of Melanie’s Law, G.L. c. 90 § 12 makes it a criminal offense to allow an improper person to drive your motor vehicle. A conviction may result in the revocation of your vehicle’s registration and license plates as well as your driver’s license for up to one year.

The law also prohibits a vehicle’s owner from knowingly allowing someone whose license is ignition interlock restricted from driving a motor vehicle which is not equipped with a certified and functioning ignition interlock device.

Prior to the suspension of your driver’s license, right to operate, or automobile registration, the Registry is required to send you suspension notice and provide you with an opportunity to attend a Registry hearing. You can have legal representation at this hearing and it is usually a good idea to have a lawyer represent you.

In addition to the license suspensions and registration revocations which may follow a conviction for allowing an improper person to operate, a violation of this law can be used as evidence of negligence in a civil suit resulting from a personal injury or property damage accident. A conviction can constitute negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle.

If your driver’s license or right to operate a motor vehicle in Massachusetts is suspended or revoked for allowing improper operation, you cannot get a hardship license directly from the Registry of Motor Vehicles. However, there is a state agency known as the Board of Appeal which may issue a finding and order to the Registrar directing the issuance of a hardship license or early reinstatement.

Hire a Lawyer for your Board of Appeal Hearing

I recently spoke with a third offender who was denied a hardship license by the Registry of Motor Vehicles because he had not completed the required ninety (90) day in-patient alcohol treatment program. Since the Mass. RMV requires documented completion of the 3 month residential treatment program for those who have 8 year OUI 3rd offense revocations, the Registry denied this gentleman a hardship license and the hearings officer referred him to the Board of Appeal.

He filed the appeal on his own and called me because he thought that it might be better to hire a lawyer to represent him at his upcoming hardship license hearing. This was a smart move because if the Board denies you a hardship license, you may be required to serve your full suspension with no hardship relief. The issuance of a hardship license is considered “extraordinary relief” by the courts and the Board of Appeals has complete discretion when it comes to hardship licensing in Massachusetts. This is why it is very important to put together a comprehensive package of documents which demonstrate that you have a hardship and that any drug or alcohol issues have been brought under control.

I regularly get calls from people who have made the mistake of trying to represent themselves in hardship license appeals only to have gotten denied. When this happens, there is usually little that I can do and unless the Board grants them a re-apply date, they are forced to serve the balance of their suspensions, some of which are for 8 or 10 years.

Getting a hardship license often takes skill and considerable preparation. Those who are serious about it should hire a lawyer who regularly practices before the Registry and Board of Appeal. Undoubtedly, some individuals are granted hardship licenses without a lawyer. However, if you are serious about getting your driver’s license reinstated, hiring a lawyer can definitely increase your chances of success.

No Hardship License for Unpaid Financial Obligations

Situation:

Hi. I lost my license 9 years ago due to unpaid excise tax for a car that was re-possessed the same year that I paid the first excise tax bill that was ever charged to the car. I moved to the state of Maine and had no idea I got charged four more years of excise tax for a car I never owed or drove past 2003. The bank that possessed the car didn’t return the license plates to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles and I was 18 years old at the time and did not know anything about it. Well, when I got pulled over and found out I have no license and got arrested. I went to the Town Hall which was charging me the excise tax and explained the situation. They said it was too late to appeal it. I have tried every route this is my last route to try. I have lost my Massachusetts driver’s license for extremely long time for something I didn’t even do wrong. I tried to get a letter from place I leased car from, but because I owed them $9000.00 they won’t send me the letter so I’m all out of options. Please help me. I’m getting my taxes back this week and I’m a mother of two and I have been out of work a long time due to not having a valid driver’s license and now my children and I are homeless please help. Can I appeal the suspension and have a shot at winning. I have lost so much over this never to mention thousands in court fines. I have met drunk drivers who have better luck then me. I had a great driving record until I turned 18 and wanted to buy a new car, it’s been ten years and I’m still paying for it please help me.

Answer:

Unfortunately, there is not a thing that I, or the Registry of Motor Vehicles, can do to help you. In order to get your license reinstated, you must provide a release showing either that the outstanding obligations were satisfied or the matter has been resolved with the town which has placed a hold on your license. The RMV does not get involved in these matters and it will only release a hold with written documentation from the municipality which initiated the hold. There is nothing that I can do for you and you must deal with the town.

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.