One of the Registry’s hardship license requirements for a repeat DUI offender is that he provides a one sentence letter, not more than 30 days old, from his supervising probation officer, which simply states that the probationer is in compliance with his terms and conditions of probation.
In Massachusetts DUI cases, the terms and conditions of probation normally include that the repeat offender maintain employment, refrain from consuming alcohol or using illegal drugs, be of good behavior, attend an alcohol program, and attend group self-help meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
The required probation is literally one sentence, which simply states that the DUI defendant is in compliance with probation. In writing these letters, probation officers need not recommend that the Registry issue a hardship license or opine on the likelihood of recidivism. In fact, no opinion is called for at all. The required letter simply confirms that the probationer is meeting his “end of the bargain,” by abiding by his probation conditions.
Notwithstanding the simple and factual nature of these letters, clients are reporting that some probation officers are outright refusing to write them. This places the DUI hardship license candidate in a very untenable “catch-22” situation. The Registry absolutely will not grant a repeat DUI offender a Cinderella license without the letter which some probation officers have recently refused to write.
Today I spoke with an Assistant Chief Probation Officer who I had to call because the probation officer who he supervises flatly refused my client’s request for a probation letter. His supervisor was completely unaware of the Registry’s requirement. Given the thousands of probationers who need these letters to be considered for hardship licenses, I found this striking. How could an Assistant Chief Probation Officer, at an annual salary of almost $80,000.00, with over 14 years of experience, be unaware of something as basic as this? He asked me to fax evidence of the Registry’s probation letter requirement to him, as if I was making it up.
Interestingly, this particular Assistant Chief Probation Officer shares a rather uncommon surname with a now retired judge who the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct reprimanded and suspended for two months, without pay, for telephoning a judge who was hearing a case, in which he had a personal interest, and giving the judge information about the case and the parties involved, with the intent of influencing the disposition of the case. The judge who was reprimanded persisted in providing information to the other judge even after that judge’s unambiguous statement that he wished no further discussion of the matter. He also contacted an attorney in the case and offered to testify as a witness.
Given the “spotlight” put on the probation department for questionable hiring practices, and the allegation, made in Federal Court, that Massachusetts probation officials “systematically made employment decisions motivated by political affiliation and political association,” you would think that probation officers would be a little more diligent. It seems to me that a probation officer who refuses to write such a basic letter, which the Registry of Motor Vehicles requires in the performance of its duties, is essentially refusing to do his or her job. Having personally seen, on a few occasions, probation officers go so far as to appear at Board of Appeal Hardship License Hearings, it doesn’t appear to be unreasonable for them to write a one sentence letter documenting compliance, or lack thereof, with probation conditions.