Out of State Citation Triggers Mass. License Suspension

Hardship License Question:

Back in 2009 I was caught drinking underage and cited for it. I was not driving and was also told in order to drive in the state of Pennsylvania I would have to pay 25 dollars. Since I don’t go to PA, I felt no need to pay this ridiculous fine because I was not driving and didn’t even have a car at the time (my license was only 3-4 months old). Fast forward to today, I got a letter from the Massachusetts RMV that stating my license here would be suspended on December 8, 2012. (license is up for renewal in January) I’ve reached out to PennDOT and they said it would only affect my driving in PA. Then I reached out to a hearing officer at the Wilmington, MA Registry (5hr wait) where she said that she couldn’t extend the date that my Mass. License would be suspended and I must clear up what was done in Pennsylvania before I get my license back here in Massachusetts. My commute 6 days a week is 35-45 minutes a day. I’m not sure what to do and what I can do to get this fixed.

Answer:

PennDOT has you listed in the National Driver Register (NDR) as blocked, due to the Pennsylvania license suspension for being a minor in possession of alcohol. The National Driver Register was designed to prevent drivers from ignoring license suspensions, financial responsibility, citations, and other consequences occurring in states other than the driver’s home state. Basically, the NDR was designed to prevent people from doing what you did, ignoring a suspension in a state where you do not reside.

You cannot get a hardship license in Massachusetts while your right to drive is suspended in Pennsylvania and you’re blocked in the NDR, so you need to address the matter with the state of Pennsylvania. Once you’re reinstated in Pennsylvania, the Registry may want a certified copy of your PA driving record or “proof of findings” regarding the license suspension. This may trigger a corresponding license suspension in Massachusetts, pursuant to the law which states that the Registry is required to treat out of state convictions as if they had occurred here in Massachusetts. Therefore, since your right to operate was suspended due to a civil infraction in Pennsylvania, you may have to deal with an additional 180 day minor in possession of alcohol suspension in Massachusetts. If this happens, I may be able to get you a hardship license or early reinstatement, so long as you are no longer suspended in Pennsylvania.

School Zone Radius Reduced in Massachusetts Drug Cases

school_zone_drugsThe Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will automatically suspend your driver’s license for a period of 1 to 5 years if you have been convicted of a drug offense, even if it has nothing to do with driving or a motor vehicle. In accordance with G. L. c. 94C, § 32J, drug offenses committed within school zones carry minimum mandatory sentences of at least 2 year in jail. In 2012, the school zone radius was reduced from 1000 to 300 feet. In two decisions which were published today, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court announced that school zone violations which were committed prior to August 2, 2012, the effective date of the law reducing the radius to 300 feet, are still governed by the new 300 feet radius, so long as the cases are still pending and have not resulted in convictions or guilty pleas. This will allow numerous drug defendants to avoid mandatory jail time. However, they will still have their licenses automatically suspended if they are convicted or plead guilty. Fortunately, hardship licenses are available to qualified applicants.

Some Mass. Hardship License Q&A

inspection_sticker_massachusettsQuestion:

Hi I currently have 8 citations. Before today I had 6 citations and just completed the 8 hour driver retraining class late so my license got suspended. Today I was on my way to a RMV hearing to pay my reinstatement fee. I got pulled over and got a citation for driving on a suspended license and another citation for a inspection sticker. I understand after 7 surchargeable events my license gets suspended again for another 60 days. Is there anything I can do about it? Request a hearing before I wait for my court date? Since I was on my way to pay my reinstatement fee could they give me a break? Just wondering if there was anything that could help me because with a 60 day suspension I am at risk of losing my current job.

Answer:

The Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Appeals Board will not consider that you were on the way to the Registry when you were stopped and cited for Operating After Suspension and non-inspection, both of which are surchargeable events. Also, given your record, you must be paying a high insurance premium because of the Massachusetts Safe Driver Insurance Plan under which bad drivers are penalized for surchargeable events and insurance companies use a 6 year lookback period.

My recommendation is to appeal the citation, which you must do by presenting the citation to the Clerk-Magistrate’s Office within 4 days of receipt of the citation. You should try to fight these charges because if you are convicted of operating on a suspended license you’ll have an additional suspension for driving while suspended and a 7 surchargeable events suspension. If you’re found responsible for non-inspection, you’ll have another 7 surchargeable events suspension as well.  Consequently, the best course of action is to appeal the citation and hire a lawyer to represent you at the Clerk-Magistrate hearing.

I am Disabled with 4 young children. I received a non-renewal letter due to back excise taxes (double billed after moving), also lost my long standing Director of Sales career due to serious health issues, leading to full disability (2005). Haven’t been able to drive for almost 10 years and desperately need hardship status due to limited income & serious health problems..I have a Clean 18 year driving history.. Please help my children need me to assist with driving them to school/ sports & my medical appointments. I have been punished for 10 years for being disabled.. If I had the money to pay past excise bills and two parking tickets, I would!  I am hoping for your assistance to at least gain hardship status.

Answer:

Unfortunately, there are no absolutely hardship licenses available for unpaid financial obligations. The only way to get your license reinstated is to pay what you owe.

Don’t Risk Being Arrested for Driving While Suspended

arrestedIf your license or driving privileges have been suspended or revoked, I urge you not to drive. If you are found driving on a suspended license, you could be arrested and prosecuted. If you are convicted of operating after suspension or revocation, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will impose an additional loss of license which will likely take effect only after your original suspension or revocation expires. This means that you will have to serve additional time without your license.

Depending on your criminal history and the suspension reason, operating after suspension may land you in jail. For example, if you lost your license due to drunk driving and you are convicted of operating after suspension for OUI, you will have a minimum mandatory sentence of 60 days in jail.

State and local police officers from various police departments across Massachusetts are being equipped with automatic license plate readers or ALPRs, to detect drivers whose licenses are suspended or revoked. ALPR systems automatically scan license plates and alert the police if a vehicle’s registered owner’s license has been suspended or revoked. This provides the police with justification to stop the vehicle and investigate the operator’s license status.

Being convicted of driving while suspended or revoked is considered a major violation under the Massachusetts Habitual Traffic Offender program and it may result in an additional 4 year HTO revocation. Also, the Board of Appeal views operating after suspension as evidence of a conscious disregard for the law and it is one of the reasons why the Board of Appeal denies hardship license requests.

Instead of taking the chance of being arrested, sent to jail,  and losing your license for a longer period time, you should consider applying for a hardship license. In Massachusetts, hardship licenses are available to allow qualified individuals to drive for 12 hours each day, 7 days a week, during the term of a license revocation or suspension. A hardship license is a sensible alternative to driving while suspended and risking arrest.

Driving While Suspended After OUI: No Hardship License

Here’s what the prospective client had to say:

I recently received a DUI .28, during the initial 30 day suspension I made the stupid decision to drive and was pulled over and charged with operating after suspension. I hired a defense attorney for the DUI/suspension charges. He was able to get the DA to accept a suspended sentence for the DUI along with the negligent op, marked lanes, speeding violations. But I did have to plead out on the operating with suspended lic. I have now begun my 60 day suspension for this. While my attorney is good, I am looking to hire someone who specializes in Hardship licenses to prepare my case as it is imperative that I receive a hardship if eligible.

The answer:

Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way that this person is going to be granted a hardship license. Nothing rubs the Board of Appeal the wrong way more than a recent Operating After Suspension charge,  especially when it is connected with a recent breathalzyer failure and administrative per se suspension.

Here, this individual got arrested for DUI and blew a .28, more than 3 times the legal limit. He was charged with DUI and had his license suspended for 30 days for failing the breathalzyer. With  days of his DUI arrest, he drove on a suspended license, got stopped and arrested. He won’t be getting a hardship license, no matter how good of a lawyer he has. I wouldn’t take this case to the Board of Appeal because doing so wastes my time and the client’s money. I already know how the Board will rule. Also, with the thousands of appeals that the Board hears each year, they don’t need me bringing in a case such as this.

Ignition Interlock Device Q&A

I recently received this e-mail from a client who I helped obtain a hardship license on a 2nd offense OUI.

I have successfully dealt with the interlock for a year and a half – I have maintained my sobriety date of July 26, 2010 but have had two recent issues and I am soliciting data from the interlock company – Draeger.  Three months ago, and again last week, I was warned by the interlock unit I had two days before being locked out.  The message came out of nowhere with no warning.  In both cases when serviced at the dealer, the file indicated I had “refused” a retest request 2 separate rimes – which results in the warning of the immanent lock out.  It happened 3 months ago and again last week.  I have contested this with the garage and with Draeger and they are sending me the detailed data of each test and when the issue occurred.  I am sure it is a malfunction but Draeger sees nothing in the data to suggest it is.  I have not received any kind of notice from the State but I want to be proactive,.  Should I see you?  Should I arrange a time with the hearing officer?  My removal date is September 2014 and I have been clean other than 2 false positives back last summer when I used an epinephrine inhaler and with bug spray – otherwise totally clean.  Do I need to worry?  I greatly appreciate your help and am happy to pay for your consult.  God bless the folks that continue drinking – if this is the crap that happens with a sober person I can only imagine what happens to a person who consumes alcohol.  Thanks

Here’s the answer:

Two Missed Rolling Re-tests within one Service Period will initiate a lockout and you need Two Lockouts due to Missed Rolling Re-tests to constitute an Ignition Interlock Violation. Therefore, I don’t think that you will receive a hearing notice. In order to get the device removed, you must have no “infractions” within the 6 month period immediately prior to your removal date. Two Missed Rolling Re-tests within one Service Period constitutes an infraction, So long as you do not have any infractions between April of 2014 and your removal date in September, you should be all set.

Registry Clerk Involved in License Fraud Scheme

Lfalse_licenseeonel Sanchez, 52 years old, of Revere, Massachusetts was arrested for bribing a Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles employee to issue Mass. Driver’s Licenses under a false license scheme whereby applicants would present Puerto Rican identity documents that belong to others. This cases shows that if your license is suspended or revoked, it’s better to apply for a hardship license instead of trying to get a fraudulent license.

This case resulted from an investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations and the Boston Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force. The task force conducts complex investigations involving identity theft and public corruption relating to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV).

From at least December 2012 through January 2013, Sanchez is alleged to have conducted a scheme with a scheme to knowingly and willfully produce false identification documents with the assistance of a clerk at the Revere, MA RMV. The former Registry Clerk is the subject of a federal criminal prosecution for his role in providing Massachusetts driver’s licenses and identification cards to individuals who were not eligible to receive them.

The former Registry employee made a full confession, admitting his role in issuing Massachusetts driver’s licenses and identification cards to individuals who were not eligible to receive them. The former Registry clerk admitted to working with Sanchez and other individuals in the scheme. The scheme involved “brokers” bringing “clients” to the Registry to obtain for the clients licenses and identification cards in identities other than their own. The former Registry employee was paid by the brokers in cash for each identification card or license he produced.

Sanchez allegedly conspired with the Registry licensing clerk to produce no fewer than thirty-three Massachusetts driver’s licenses to individuals who presented fraudulently obtained, but valid, Puerto Rican identification documents. The driver’s license applicants used fraudulently obtained but legitimate Puerto Rican identity documents to his clients in order to present the identity documents to the CW to obtain a legitimate Massachusetts driver’s licenses or identification cards.

Sanchez is further alleged to have provided his clients with Comcast bills that looked fake to present to the RMV as proof of address. The investigation alleges that Sanchez would often bring another individual to take the permit tests for his clients.

These activities violate federal law as well as G.L. c. 90 § 24B, a felony which carries a potential sentence of 5 years in state prison and a mandatory 1 year license revocation.

If you have lost your right to operate a motor vehicle, rather than trying to get a fraudulent license, you should try to get a legitimately issued hardship license.

Also, if your license has been suspended or revoked due to “COMP FRAUD LIC/ID,” you are entitled to be considered for a hardship license or early reinstatement. Contact me to find out more information regarding this option.

Converting Criminal Offenses to Civil Infractions

In some cases involving operating after suspension in violation of G.L. c. 90 § 23 or operating an uninsured motor vehicle in violation of G.L. c. 90 § 34J, prosecutors and defense lawyers might agree to treat these criminal offenses as civil infractions pursuant to G. L. c. 277, § 70C. This law allows certain criminal misdemeanor motor vehicle offenses to be treated as non-criminal driving infractions. This disposition is not available in Massachusetts operating under the influence (OUI) cases .

Having the court treat a criminal charge as a civil infraction, may have some benefits such as not having a criminal conviction on your record. However, unbeknownst to many, including some criminal defense lawyers, when a case is resolved with a responsible finding, the Registry of Motor Vehicles will treat the disposition as a conviction and automatically impose the corresponding license suspension, even though the offense was decriminalized.

The unsuspecting defendant is usually quick to agree to converting a criminal charge to a civil violation to avoid having a criminal conviction. A few days later, he or she receives a suspension notice in the mail stating that the Registry will be suspending his or her driver’s license due to the civil infraction. Once this happens, it’s too late to change the outcome of the case and the driver is faced with an unexpected mandatory license suspension. Therefore, defendants faced with the option of having a criminal motor vehicle violation converted to a civil infraction should carefully weigh the benefits against the registry sanctions which a responsible finding will trigger.

Your Legal Rights in Mass. License Suspension Cases

Whenever the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles takes action against your license, you have the legal right to have a hearing before a Registry Hearings Officer. In immediate threat cases, due to public safety considerations, the Registry may revoke your license first and grant you a hearing afterwards. Likewise, if you are arrested for OUI, and you refuse to submit to a chemical breath or blood test, or you fail such a test your license will be immediately revoked at the time of the Breathalyzer refusal or failure. You can have a Registry hearing after the revocation takes effect, where you have the legal right to have an attorney represent you.

In most other cases, the Registry is legally required to grant you a hearing prior to the suspension or revocation of your license or right to operate in Massachusetts. You have the right to be represented by a lawyer at this hearing. You also have the right to be represented by a lawyer at any hardship license hearing, whether it is conducted by MassDOT or the Division of Insurance Board of Appeal.

Being represented by a lawyer can often make the difference between getting a license or getting denied and having to serve the balance of your suspension or revocation. If the Board of Appeal has denied you a hardship license, it is usually too late to hire a lawyer. If you’ve been denied by the Board, the avenue of appeal is to Superior Court, where it is extremely difficult to reverse a hardship license denial, even with an attorney.