Mass. Suspended License Penalties

As explained below, driving on a suspended license in Massachusetts carries harsh penalties. Therefore, instead of risking being arrested for operating after suspension, it makes sense to pursue getting a hardship license. With a 12 hour Massachusetts hardship license, you can drive legally and you will avoid being arrested for operating after suspension. 

Under G.L. c. 90 sec. 23, it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle in Massachusetts if your license has been revoked or suspended.  If you are caught driving with a license that has been suspended or revoked, after you have received notification, either personally, by a third party (agent), or by your employer, that your license has been suspended or revoked, for your first offense, you can receive a fine between $500.00 and $1,000.00 or be imprisoned for up to ten (10) days, or both.  There are more serious penalties for being caught operating after suspension or revocation when your license was taken for DUI. These enhanced penalties include an automatic minimum mandatory 60 days in jail. There are elements that must be proven by the state in order for a driver to be convicted of driving while suspended, pursuant to G.L. c. 90 sec. 23, the prosecutor must prove:  (1) that driver had actually operated the motor vehicle, (2) while operating the vehicle, the driver’s license or right to drive was revoked or suspended, (3) for enhanced penalties to apply, the license suspension or revocation was imposed pursuant to violation of one of specified statutory sections such as OUI, and (4) that defendant received proper and adequate notification, either personally or through his or her agent or employer,  that his or her driver’s license or right to drive had been suspended or revoked. See e.g. Commonwealth v. Deramo, 436 Mass. 40 (Mass. 2002)

In addition to having your license suspended by the RMV, you may also be charged under G.L. c. 90 sec. 23 if you knowingly drive, or allow someone else to drive a vehicle, even though you know the vehicle’s registration has been suspended or revoked. The Registry revokes automobile registrations for a variety of reasons such as failure to maintain an insurance liability policy, as required by G.L. c. 90 § 34J, allowing someone with a suspended license to drive your vehicle, for a “complaint regulatory,” or as a result of a complaint immediate threat filed with the RMV by the police. It is also illegal under this statute to put a license plate on a vehicle that it does not belong to., which is known as illegally attaching plates. The punishment for this offense is a fine up to $100.00, or imprisonment up to 10 days, or both. 

If you are convicted of driving with a suspended or revoked license more than once, your punishment could be far more severe.  The punishment for your second offense could result in imprisonment for a minimum of 60 days but could be as long as a full year.  A punishment can also vary depending on the crime that resulted in the license suspension.  For instance if the driver had his license suspended because he was convicted of driving while under the influence (DUI), there is a mandatory punishment of 60 days in jail.  

There are exceptions to the Mass. license suspension law as well.  For example, a driver cannot be punished for driving with a suspended license for failing to pay an administrative fee for reinstatement of your license without written notice from the Registrar of Motor Vehicles that a reinstatement fee is due.  In addition, depending on the crime and reason for the license suspension, a driver may apply for a hardship license.

In addition to the fines and potential jail time associated with a conviction for operating after suspension or revocation in Massachusetts, a conviction of this offense will trigger a new license suspension which could range from 60 days to a full year. Furthermore, operating after suspension is considered a major violation for insurance purposes and the calculation of insurance surcharge points under the Massachusetts Safe Driver Insurance Plan. Operating after suspension or revocation, which some states refer to as driving while suspended, is a also considered a major offense under the Massachusetts Habitual Traffic Offender Law, G.L. c. 90 § 22F. A person who is convicted of 3 major offenses within any rolling 5 year period will have his or her license revoked for 4 years as a habitual traffic offender.

With the stiff penalties associated with driving on a suspended license in Massachusetts, some defendants may be tempted to agree to having the criminal charge converted to a civil violation. While this option prevents having a conviction appear on the driver’s record, being found civilly responsible for operating after suspension or revocation will still trigger the above-listed license suspensions and it will still count as a major violation for habitual traffic offender revocation purposes.

If you have been charged with operating a vehicle while your license is suspended or revoked, contact our office today for a free initial consultation.