Mass. Drunk Driving License Suspensions

Those convicted of DUI in Massachusetts or those who admit to sufficient facts or work out plea bargains in DUI cases often falsely believe that their license suspension will be determined by the court’s treatment of the DUI conviction. This is completely incorrect. Others believe that Mass. Registry can do “whatever it wants” when it comes to DUI license suspensions. This is equally incorrect.

When it comes to imposing license suspensions triggered by OUI convictions or admissions to sufficient facts, the Registry must follow the law.  The Massachusetts drunk driving law, G.L. c. 90, § 24, requires the Registry to impose license revocations based on prior DUI convictions or alcohol program assignments regardless of how the court treated the current offense.

The Registry of Motor Vehicles is an independent agency of the Commonwealth charged with keeping records of an individual’s official driving record and history.

Based on these Registry records, the law imposes licensing consequences of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.  For example, G.L. c.90, § 24(1)(c), requires the Registrar to revoke the driver’s license or right to operate of any person who has an OUI conviction. In calculating the length of license suspensions, the Registry looks at the customer’s driving history and suspends the license based upon the prior DUI offenses listed in his or her driving history.

The Registry makes a simple numerical count of the OUI convictions or CWOFs listed in the Registry’s records and imposes a license suspension which corresponds with the number of prior offenses.

Contrary to popular belief, the Registry is not bound by a defendant’s sentencing under G.L. c.90, § 24D in applying the statutory mandates for OUI license revocations and out of state drunk driving offenses count just like those committed here.

Mass. Cinderella License for OUI Suspension

Situation: I was arrested for drunk driving on Friday night, early Saturday morning, at approximately 1:30 AM. I am 35 years of age my court date is January 21, 2104, because of the holiday. I took a breathalyzer I did not deny it. I am from Fall River, Massachusetts and I work in New Bedford from 6:AM to 3:30 PM. I can’t believe I am facing this situation. I have a perfect driving record until this. Now I will be surcharged from my insurance and this is my first ever DUI.  Is there any way I can ask the judge for a Cinderella license just so I can go to work?

The answer to this question is yes, you can ask for a work license. However, you cannot do that while your DUI case is pending. In Massachusetts, you cannot be considered for any type of hardship or Cinderella license until your case is resolved in court. While your case is pending it is impossible to get a hardship license. Since this person took the breath test, he will have a 30 day administrative per se suspension, after which he can get a full reinstatement. Of course, if he is convicted of OUI or he is assigned to an alcohol treatment program, the Registry will suspend his license because of the conviction or program assignment. Some people do not bother reinstating from an administrative per se suspension, they just wait until their case is resolved in court. Others promptly appear at the Registry on the 31st day to get their licenses back. It depends on the individual and his or her particular need to drive. Most first offenders do not need the services of a lawyer to get a hardship license. So long as your case is resolved and you have a valid work letter and proof of enrollment in the 24D 16 week out patient alcohol treatment program for 1st offenders, you’ll likely be granted a hardship license and hiring an attorney is probably not the best use of your money or the attorney’s time. I get a lot of calls from first offenders and I advise them of the Registry requirements and suggest that they go to the Registry themselves. I rarely get calls back afterwards reporting hardship license denials. It is, of course, more difficult for repeat offenders and those people should have lawyers representing them.

To summarize, it is fairly easy to get a Cinderella license for a first offense OUI suspension. However, you cannot even be considered for this until your court case is resolved. While the case is pending, neither the judge nor the Registry has the ability to grant you any type of  Cinderella license.

If you have questions regarding OUI or hardship licensure in Massachusetts, fill out the contact form on this site or call 508-656-0057 for a free consultation and review of your case. A lawyer will let you know exactly where you stand and what can be done to help you. I have put a large number of clients back on the road with Cinderella licenses or full reinstatements of their regular driver’s licenses.

DUI Dismissed & License Still Suspended

Situation:

I was arrested more than a year ago for operating under the influence in Massachusetts and I refused the breathylyzer. I had previous offenses (one dismissed and one CWOF) from 30 yrs. ago. My current OUI case was dismissed in September. However, after dismissing the charges, the judge would not reinstate license. I have a hearing date with the board of appeals to try and reinstate my license

Answer:

Unfortunately, the Division of Insurance Board of Appeal will not help you in this situation. Appealing a judge’s denial of a motion to reinstate is a waste of your money and the Board’s time. In cases such as this, the Board has taken the position that it does not have the jurisdiction to hear appeals of this nature. The Board rationale is that G.L. c. 90, § 24(1)(f)(1) sets forth a statutory procedure for relief and that procedure is for the person seeking a driver’s license reinstatement after having been found not guilty of DUI or after having the DUI charges dismissed to appear before the judge who heard the operating under the influence case pursuant to a motion for license reinstatement.

Under Massachusetts law, when a person whose license was suspended due to a chemical test refusal is found not guilty of the drunk driving charges or the DWI charges are dismissed, the defendant is entitled to have a hearing on the reinstatement of his license and the termination of the breathalzyer refusal suspension. There is a presumption at this hearing that the person’s license should be returned unless the prosecution can convince the District Court Judge that reinstating the license would jeopardize public safety.

Although the Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance has the legal authority to overrule any decision of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, the Board is of the opinion that the above-listed procedure is the sole mechanism to pursue the return or a driver’s license after the favorable resolution of a DUI case and it will not hear suspension appeals in situation such as this.

From a practical standpoint, the Board of Appeal is rightfully concerned with public safety and that consideration is paramount in hardship license appeals. Since your motion for reinstatement was denied, the Commonwealth must have convinced the District Court Judge that returning your to the roadway would not be in the best interest of public safety and the Board of Appeal is highly unlikely to overrule this decision, which was made by a judge who assumedly heard the facts of the case and reviewed your driving and criminal history records.

In recent years District Attorney’s have been more vigorous in their oppositions to license reinstatements and judges seem to be more reluctant to order reinstatements in cases where the defendant has multiple DUI events on his or her record.

If the judge denied your motion to reinstate without prejudice, then you can refile the motion once you have undergone alcohol treatment, counseling, and probation supervision sufficient to demonstrate that any alcohol issues have been brought under control. If the motion was denied with prejudice against refiling, your only recourse is to have your lawyer file a motion for reconsideration of the denial decision. This must be filed in accordance with the standards and requirements set forth in the Massachusetts court rules.

A Court Order for License Reinstatement is necessary because in Massachusetts, being found not guilty of OUI or having the OUI charge dismissed does not automatically reinstate your license or driving privileges which have been revoked due to a chemical test refusal, which is an administrative suspension not directly tied to the outcome of the criminal case.

Hardship Licenses for 1st Offenders in Massachusetts

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. 

Plead Out to a 2nd Offense DUI in Massachusetts?

Under Melanie’s Law and G.L. c. 90 § 24(1)(c)(2), if you are convicted of or plead guilty to DUI 2nd offense in Massachusetts, the Registry will automatically suspend your license for 2 years. You will be required to complete the 14 day in-patient DUIL Program in Tewksbury and at least 26 weeks of required out-patient aftercare. You cannot be considered for a hardship license from the Registry until you have served 1 year of the 2 year suspension. In some cases, you may be able to get a hardship license sooner by going before the Board of Appeal. However, the Board will not likely consider you for hardship relief until you have completed aftercare. Because of Melanie’s law, you will be ignition interlock required while on any hardship license and for at least 2 years after getting a full-time license. There are absolutely no exceptions to this requirement and you must install ignition interlock devices in any vehicle that you own, operate, or lease. The Registry enforces this requirement with “zero tolerance.”

In addition to the fines, fees, costs, and license suspension you will be placed on supervised probation, usually for 2 years. The conviction will remain on your record for life and it will dramatically increase the penalties of you are convicted of a 3rd or subsequent offense.

In many cases, a good DUI attorney can get you the same outcome if you are found guilty after exercising your constitutional right to a jury trial. To encourage a plea, prosecutors sometimes offer to reduce the charge to DUI 1st offense. This may seem attractive. However, even if you are convicted of a 1st offense, the Registry will still suspend your license for 2 years and you will still be ignition interlock required. Many DUI clients do not realize this and some DUI lawyers do not clearly explain this.  Being a 2nd offender with a first offender DUI program may make it more difficult to get a hardship license. Attorney Simoneau can provide more information regarding this situation.