If your driver’s license was suspended due to a chemical test refusal in Massachusetts, you may only have fifteen (15) days to save your license and right to drive. This is because under G.L. c. 90 § 24(1)(f)(1), you only have fifteen calendar days to appeal certain aspects of a breathalyzer refusal. Under the Mass. breathalyzer refusal law, weekends and holidays count towards the 15 day refusal appeal period. Also, breath test refusal suspension can only be appealed to the MassDOT main branch in Boston, Massachusetts. The RMV will not accept refusal appeals at any other location.
Under the Massachusetts Implied Consent Law, if you refuse to take a breath or blood test after you have been arrested for operating under the influence of alcohol, the Registry will administratively suspend your license or right to operate for at least 6 months, up to lifetime, depending on whether you were 21 or older at the time of the refusal and the number of prior OUI convictions. When calculating these suspensions, all prior convictions and alcohol program assignments will count against you, no matter when or where they occurred.
Given the 15 day appeal period and the penalties associated with breathalyzer refusals, you should promptly consult with a lawyer. It is important to challenge chemical test refusal suspensions in Massachusetts because, except in 1st offense cases, a hardship license is not available when a license is suspended due to a chemical test refusal. Also, breathalyzer refusal suspensions must run prior to DUI suspensions. For example, if you are convicted of a 2nd offense OUI and you refused the breath test, you will serve a 3 year CTR suspension prior to the commencement of the 2 year OUI suspension, for a total of 5 years without a license. You cannot be considered for hardship relief until the 3 year CTR suspension expires.
I have been getting a lot of calls from OUI 1st offenders who are looking for hardship licenses. They have had their licenses suspended for 180 days for breathalyzer refusals and, understandably, they want to get back on the road with hardship licenses. However, the general rule in Massachusetts is that you cannot get a hardship license while serving a breathalyzer refusal suspension.
There is an exception to the no hardship license during a refusal suspension rule. The exception is that 1st offenders who have their cases resolved pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 24D can get be considered for 12 hour hardship licenses. However, the Registry of Motor Vehicles will not consider anyone for a hardship license unless and until the first offender is legally qualified and the operating under the influence case was resolved under § 24D. This means that you cannot be considered for a hardship license immediately after your drunk driving arrest. Instead, you must wait until the case is resolved in court. There are absolutely no exceptions to this rule, no matter how important you job is or how badly you need to drive. The Registry has no legal ability to consider you for a hardship license until your case is resolved.
I recently received this e-mail from a truck driver who was arrested for drunk driving in an unknown community in Massachusetts.
On 3/12/12 I was arrested for an OUI. When I got to police station for the breathalyzer test, they told me that if I refused I would only lose my license for 180 days. I did have one back in 1991 they told me that it was not on my record anymore. I do have a lawyer and she said nothing I can do I will lose CDL for life and license for 3 years. I am already losing my house. Now I am employed for a town as a mechanic and about to be let go.
This situation illustrates the importance of hiring the right DUI lawyer. His attorney should have appealed the chemical test refusal suspension on his behalf. I say this because in order for a breathalyzer refusal suspension to be valid, the person arrested for drunk driving who refuses to submit to the breath test must have been informed that his license will be taken for a minimum of 180 days, up to lifetime. If the police fail to inform DUI offender of this prior to asking him or her to take the breathalyzer, the suspension can be overturned. However, the breathalyzer refusal suspensions of this nature can only be appealed to the Registry of Motor Vehicles at 630 Washington Street in Boston within 15 days of the suspension.
In this case, no appeal was filed within the statutory 15 day appeal period. Therefore, the CDL driver cannot appeal. This means that he will have to serve a 3 year suspension of his Class D License and he will have a lifetime revocation / disqualification of his commercial driver’s license (CDL). This case illustrates the importance of hiring a good DUI lawyer who understands the laws governing license suspensions and reinstatements. Also, under federal law, there is no ability to get a CDL hardship license.