Representing Yourself at a RMV Hardship License Hearing

Other than in straightforward DUI 1st offense hardship license cases, I do not recommend representing yourself at a RMV suspension or hardship license hearing. However, not everyone can afford a lawyer and not all Massachusetts DUI lawyers provide representation at the Registry of Motor Vehicles as part of the services which they provide. If you are trying to represent yourself at a hardship license or suspension hearing before the Driver Control Unit of the Registry of Motor Vehicles, this article will help you understand the process.However, to increase your chances of success, you should have a lawyer assist you with the hardship license or suspension appeal process.

First, you should request and thoroughly review your driving record to see if there is anything holding up your reinstatement. Unpaid speeding or traffic tickets, parking tickets, and excise tax will block reinstatement or a hardship license.  Next, if your license is suspended for 5 surchargable events or because you are a habitual traffic offender, you must take the National Safety Council Class. If your license was suspended for speeding while on a JOL, you must take the NSC Alive at 25 Class as well as the State Courts Against Road Rage program.  Outstanding warrants and recent evidence of driving on a suspended license will also prevent reinstatement or a success at hardship license hearing.

Next, you should review your driving record to make sure that you’ve served the minimum amount of suspension time. The RMV absolutely will not reinstate you or grant you a hardship license until you’ve served enough time. There are different time standards, depending on the suspension reason. Habitual Traffic Offenders must serve 1 year, drug offenders must serve ½ of the suspension time, DUI 2nd offenders must serve 1 year, 3rd offenders must serve 2 years, and DUI 4th offenders must serve 5 years. The Registry can only grant hardship licenses for drug, habitual traffic offender, and DUI suspensions. All other hardship license requests must go before the Board of Appeal of the Massachusetts Division of Insurance.

The next step in the Massachusetts hardship license process is to collect documents. The RMV will require a letter from your work, school, or physician, explaining your hardship and need for a license. The letter should state how public transportation will not suffice. School or work letter should clearly state your school or work hours. Medical hardship letters should explain your appointment schedule, as best as possible. A 12 hour hardship license, which is also known as a work or Cinderella license is valid for 12 hours each day and the hours must coincide with your work, school, or medical need to drive. The letter(s) must be on letterhead and no less than thirty (30) days old.  Other documentation such as a letter from probation, letters of recommendation, reports showing clean drug screens, drug or alcohol program completion certificates, alcohol evaluations, and discharge summaries showing risk of recidivism should also be presented, depending on the case.

Finally, you should prepare to make a compelling case to the hearings officer. You should be ready to explain why you are not a risk to public safety and why you have a substantial need to drive, beyond simple inconvenience. Be ready to address anything in your driving or criminal record, both of which the hearing officer will review. Again, hiring a lawyer is usually the best option and this brief article cannot cover everything related to effective hardship license hearing preparation. However, this information will give you a good starting point if you have decided to represent yourself at a Mass. RMV license suspension hearing. if you are granted a hardship license or full reinstatement, you must pay the applicable license reinstatement fee.

Mass. CDL Suspensions & Disqualifications

The Massachusetts DUI law has stiff penalties for commercial drivers license (CDL) holders. Operating Under the Influence convictions can result in a one year or lifetime CDL disqualification whether the DUI offense occurs in a CDL motor vehicle or not. Also, chemical test refusals also count as violations which may result in a CDL revocation or disqualification.

Under the Massachusetts CDL disqualification law, there is a minimum mandatory one (1) year license revocation for DUI Alcohol or Drugs, leaving the scene of an accident, refusing the breathalyzer, and using any motor vehicle in the commission of certain felonies. These violations will count against your CDL whether or not they were committed in a commercial motor vehicle or passenger car.

Driving with a commercial vehicle with a BAC of .04 or above will also result in a one (1) year CDL suspension or disqualification. Certain Massachusetts drug offenses such as manufacturing, distribution, or trafficking of a controlled substance or the possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute will generate a lifetime CDL disqualification or license suspension.

Under the Massachusetts CDL Suspension Law, certain serious traffic offense will result in mandatory CDL disqualification / suspension.

It is usually very difficult, but not always impossible, to successfully appeal a Massachusetts CDL license suspension. These revocations and disqualifications are mandatory and the Registry of Motor Vehicles does not have discretion. Likewise, the RMV Board of Appeal usually closely follows the law in CDL license suspension or disqualification appeal cases. If you have lost your Massachusetts commercial driver’s license, please contact me today for a free review of your case and legal consultation. Depending on your situation, I may be able to get your CDL restored.

Elderly Drivers & “Complaint Medical” or “Immediate Threat” Suspensions

The Registry of Motor Vehicles routinely suspends or revokes the licenses of elderly drivers in Massachusetts as a result of complaints filed by physicians, police officers, and others. When a license is revoked for a “Complaint Immediate Threat” or a “Complaint Medical,” the driver whose license is suspended must usually go through a medical clearance process and competency road test. This process usually involves two hearings before the Driver Control Unit of the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Some elderly drivers have trouble passing competency road tests, because they have developed some bad driving habits over the years and they may not be driving in strict accordance with the Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Laws and the “rules of the road.” Many Mass. drivers would have difficulty passing a road test conducted by a RMV examiner. Drivers may pick up bad habits over the years, which do not necessarily make them dangerous, unsafe, or bad drivers.

One of the best ways to increase your chances of passing a Registry of Motor Vehicles competency road test is to practice with a qualified Massachusetts Driving Instructor. Getting a driver’s education “refresher,” and doing a couple of simulated road tests, has been found to be very helpful to elderly drivers who are taking the RMV driving test, which can sometimes be difficult to pass without preparation.

The Board of Appeal of the Massachusetts Division of Insurance often orders the Registry to issue learner’s permits to elderly drivers who will take competency road tests. These Massachusetts Lerner’s Permits allow the driver to operate under the direction of a driving instructor, so that the elderly driver can prepare for his or her Registry road test. Adequate preparation can make the difference between passing and failing a Massachusetts Competency Road Test.


Massachusetts Traffic Citation Appeals: Criminal & Civil

There are two types of Massachusetts traffic tickets or citations: civil and criminal. Civil citations are issued for traffic violations such as speeding, following too close, failure to stop for a red light or stop sign, failing to stay within marked lanes, which is also known as a marked lanes violation, having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle, and other minor Massachusetts traffic offenses.

Criminal citations are issued for more serious offenses such as operating to endanger, leaving the scene of an accident, attaching plates, compulsory insurance violation (driving uninsured), reckless driving, and driving on a suspended license, which is also known as operating after suspension or revocation.  Both criminal and civil infractions can result in the suspension or revocation of your Mass. License or right to drive in Massachusetts under the 7 surchargable event law, habitual traffic offender law, or the Mass. law which will automatically suspend your license for additional time if you are caught operating after suspension or revocation.  A conviction for driving without insurance will also trigger a mandatory loss of license.

If you are given a criminal citation, you must NOT send the citation to the Registry and the police officer who issues you the citation should not give you an envelope with the RMV’s address on it. Instead, if you would like to contest the citation at a Clerk-Magistrate hearing, which is strongly recommended, you must check off the appropriate box on the back of the ticket and send it to the Clerk-Magistrate’s office of the appropriate district court within 4 days of receipt of the citation. The police officer who issued the citation should have written the court address in a box in the corner of the ticket.

If you send a criminal citation to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, instead of the appropriate court, you may lose your right to a hearing and the case will proceed to a criminal arraignment.  If you are trying to appeal a civil citation for offenses such as speeding, you must send the citation to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, using the envelope provide, within 20 days of receipt. You should check off the appropriate box to request a hearing. Once you pay a citation, you cannot later dispute responsibility. Payment of a Massachusetts traffic citation is considered an admission of guilt and the ticket can be used against you to suspend your license and increase your insurance. 

Surchargable Accidents Can Trigger License Suspensions

Pursuant to a little known law, being involved in a traffic accident in Massachusetts can result in the suspension of your driver’s license. Under the Massachusetts 7 surchargable event law, any Massachusetts driver who accumulates 7 surchargable events within any three (3) year period, will have his or her driver’s license automatically suspended for 60 days.  Most traffic tickets and all at Massachusetts at fault accidents are considered surchargable events. At fault accidents which result in automobile insurance surcharges are those involving a single car or those where the accident is caused by one vehicle turning in front of another car or rear-ending a vehicle. 

The Registry of Motor Vehicles will not issue any type of work or hardship license in the case of a 7 surchargable event suspension. However, it may be possible to challenge the license suspension by going to the RMV Board of Appeal.  The Board has the power to revise and vacate 7 surchargable event suspensions and it can authorize the issuance of a Massachusetts hardship license.

If you have accumulated a combination of 5 or 6 citations or accidents, you should be extremely careful so as to avoid a 7 surchargable event suspension. If you have received a notice from the Mass. RMV stating that your license will be suspended for 60 days because you have accumulated 7 surchargable events, you should contact a Suspended License Lawyer.  We may be able to prevent the suspension, get you a hardship license, your get your full license reinstated.

New Ruling Will Help Those With Mass. Drug Convictions & Suspensions

If you are currently serving a Massachusetts license suspension because of a drug conviction, a recent Mass. Supreme Judicial Court ruling could give you relief. You may be able to reverse your conviction on the grounds that the prosecution relied only on a drug certificate and did not call the chemist who tested the alleged illegal drug. This ruling could have a huge impact on Massachusetts drug convictions and the license suspensions and revocations which these drug convictions triggered.

The state’s highest court ruled that the prosecution, in Massachusetts drug cases, routinely violated the rights of defendants by not calling the chemist as a witness to testify regarding the chemical analysis which he or she performed. Instead, for years, the prosecution relied only on certificates signed by the chemist or laboratory analyst. In Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the failure to produce the live witness and subject him or her to cross examination violates the confrontation clause of the United States Constitution.  In the recent case of Commonwealth v. Vasquez, the Massachusetts SJC ruled that this legal principle can be applied retroactively to Massachusetts drug cases, even when defense counsel failed to object to the introduction of the drug certificate without the chemist’s testimony at the time of trial.

Reversal of an underlying drug conviction will, as a matter of law, result in an automatic reversal of the resulting license suspension. This means that if your Mass. License or right to drive in Massachusetts was suspended or revoked due to a drug conviction such as possession with intent to distribute, distribution, drug possession, school zone violations, and similar offenses related to Class A, B, C, D, or E controlled substances, you may be able to get your license back by challenging the underlying Massachusetts drug conviction. Reversal of the conviction woudl give you a full and unrestricted license. You would not need a hardship or 12 hour license.

Driving on a Suspended License in Massachusetts

It is a criminal offense to drive a vehicle in Massachusetts while your driver’s license or right to operate is suspended or revoked. Driving on a Suspended License can have serious consequences which can last for years. A conviction for operating after suspension in Massachusetts will result in an additional automatic and mandatory license suspension, possible jail time, fines, fees, and an increase in your automobile insurance rates. Driving on a suspended license may also disqualify you for being considered for a hardship license, issued by either the Registry of Motor Vehicles or the RMV Board of Appeal. Being arrested for driving on a suspended license can be embarrassing, inconvenient, and very expensive. Often, your vehicle will be towed and your license plates can be confiscated. 

Some types of license suspensions carry minimum mandatory jail sentences.  For example, if your license was suspended or revoked for drunk driving, which is also known as DUI or operating under the influence, Massachusetts DUI law imposes a minimum mandatory 60 days in jail, with more jail time possible. Also, a conviction for operating after suspension can result in a 4 year loss of license under the Mass. Habitual Traffic Offender law.  

It is easy to get caught driving on a suspended license. Most Massachusetts police cruisers are equipped with laptops which are connected to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. If a police officer runs a routine check on a license plate, it will automatically tell the officer if the Registered owner’s license is suspended or revoked. Also, some cruisers are now equipped with automatic license plate recognition (ALR) systems which can automatically query license plates and report on the vehicle owner’s license status.  Also, many people with suspended licenses get stopped for minor moving and equipment violations.

A Suspended License Defense Lawyer can help you avoid some of the consequences and penalties associated with operating after suspension or revocation. There are various defenses which may be available, depending on the individual facts and circumstances of your case. These include lack of notice and an improperly applied suspension. Also, if your license has been reinstated since it was suspended, that can sometimes be used to your advantage. Finally, a good license suspension lawyer may be able to plea bargain your case so you can avoid jail time and an additional license suspension.

How to Prepare for a Mass. Hardship License Hearing

Massachusetts DUI Law allows for the issuance of limited 12 hour work or hardship licenses for the purposes of allowing a DUI offender to get to work, school, or medical appointments. Hardship licenses are also available for certain other Massachusetts license suspension such as those imposed for 7 surchargable events, drug convictions, and being a habitual traffic offender. In some cases, it is possible to get a hardship license by going before the Registry of Motor Vehicles. In other cases, the hardship license applicant must go to the RMV Board of Appeal. The Board is an administrative agency which has the power and authority to reverse, modify, or annul any decision of the Registrar.

I continue to see numerous clients who try to represent themselves at the Massachusetts RMV Board of Appeal denied hardship licenses for simple and preventable reasons. In this post, I will explain the importance of pre-hearing case preparation, so as to increase your chances of getting a Massachusetts hardship license from the RMV Board of Appeal.

First, it is important to realize that you are appearing before the Board of Appeal because there is something about your case that prevents the Mass. RMV from issuing you a hardship license. Maybe you have an extensive driving record, have not completed the required alcohol program, have not served enough time, have a license suspension for which the RMV cannot grant you a hardship license or some other reason prevents hardship relief at the Registry level. If this is the case, you should carefully prepare for your Board of Appeal hearing. Appearing before the Board of Appeal unprepared can result in the Board voting to affirm your license suspension with no re-apply date. If this happens, you may be forced to serve the whole suspension and you may not be able to get a hardship license.

First, it is absolutely essential to obtain and carefully review your driving record. Ideally, this review should be done by a Massachusetts DUI Lawyer or lawyer specializing in hardship licenses. Driving records can be difficult to understand, especially when the reader might not know what to look for. Any outstanding parking tickets, excise tax, traffic citations, speeding tickets, and other financial obligations must be paid prior to getting your license back and they should be paid in advance of your Board of Appeal hearing. Outstanding items such as these may reflect poorly and harm your chances of success.

Secondly, any outstanding National Driver Registry (NDR) out of state issues must be cleared. The Board of Appeal does not grant relief on Massachusetts suspensions imposed because a Massachusetts license holder has had his or her license suspended in another state or jurisdiction. Proof of clearance should be admitted at the time of your Board of Appeal hearing. You must also submit this to the Mass. Registry of Motor Vehicles from thirty (30) days from the date of issuance.

Third, the Board of Appeal will generally not hear your hardship license appeal if you have open and unresolved criminal cases which involve the operation of a motor vehicle or would cause your license to be suspended or revoked upon conviction. You should wait until open cases such as this are resolved. In most instances, this also applies to pending traffic tickets or citations. When a ticket is issued in Massachusetts, it is reflected on the recipient’s driving record. It will show as “incomplete” until the ticket is paid or resolved in court.

Fourth, you must make sure that you have served enough time to be considered for a hardship license. In second offense DUI cases, you must serve one year of the 2 year loss of license. In 3rd offense OUI cases, you must serve 2 years of the 8 year license suspension, and in 4th offense DUI cases, you must serve 5 years of the 10 year revocation. Habitual traffic offenders must serve at least 1 year of the 4 year revocation and you must serve ½ of the suspension time if your license is suspended for a drug conviction.  Going before the Board too soon may hurt your chances of success.

Finally, those trying to get a hardship license from the Board of Appeal must present required documentation showing a legitimate need to drive and that putting the driver back on the road with a hardship license will not jeopardize public safety. It is advisable to include letters of recommendation, proof of employment, proof of completion of drug or alcohol programs, and a letter from probation or parole.

Following the advice contained in this post may increase your chances of success at the RMV Board of Appeal. However, one of the best ways to increase your chances of success is to hire a qualified Massachusetts DUI lawyer or license reinstatement attorney.

The Mass. Ignition Interlock Requirements

On January 1, 2006, the ignition interlock requirement of Melanie’s Law (Chapter 122 of the Acts of 2005) when into effect. The law requires anyone with 2 or more driving under the influence convictions or alcohol program assignments on his or her record to use an ignition interlock device while on a Massachusetts hardship license and for 2 years after getting a full license reinstatement. The interlock requirement applies to any second or subsequent Massachusetts DUI suspension which was in effect on or after January 1, 2006.

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles takes a very broad view of who is interlock-required and the Mass. RMV enforces the interlock law with a zero tolerance approach. However, not everyone who the Registry determines is interlock-required must actually have the device.  Drivers who had come off of a hardship license, had their hardship hours removed, or were issued a new and unrestricted Massachusetts Driver’s License prior to January 1, 2006 cannot be legally required to use the ignition interlock device, because of OUI convictions which occurred prior to 2006.

For those Massachusetts drivers, with two or more DUI convictions, and who had hardship or suspended licenses as of January 1, 2006, the use of the ignition interlock device will be mandatory. However, there is an exception for non-residents. Those who do not live and drive in Massachusetts can be excused from Mass. interlock restrictions, upon presentation of acceptable proof of non-residency and an affidavit wherein the driver states that he or she does not live in Massachusetts.

Anyone who is legally interlock-required must not drive any vehicle which is not equipped with a certified ignition interlock device. A conviction for this offense carries a minimum mandatory 6 months in jail, a mandatory file ranging from $1,000 to $15,000, and an automatic 10 year license suspension.  

Superior Court Appeals Present Slim Chances of Success

The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently affirmed that the Mass. Board of Appeal has considerable power and discretion when deciding whether or not to grant a hardship license. The Mass. Appeals Court recently upheld the Board’s decision to deny hardship relief to a candidate who had a substantial driving record and made the mistake of representing himself before the Board and the Court.

The Board’s decision to deny a hardship license was based on an extensive record of motor vehicle violations, which included multiple citations for driving without insurance, and numerous traffic tickets for operating on a suspended license. The Board also considered that the Appellant had been previously given a hardship license and he re-offended. I should note that the Board takes a very dim view of anyone who commits additional violations while on a hardship license. The Board believes that someone who is granted a hardship license, which is considered “extraordinary relief” should be on his or her “best behavior.”

The Board has records of all of the cases which it hears and it also is provided with a detailed registry record which shows the issuance of previous hardship licenses. Anyone who comes before the Board being granted a Massachusetts hardship license, either by the Mass RMV or Board of Appeal should be mindful of this.

The Board’s decision to grant or deny reinstatement, or a request for a hardship license, is given significant deference and on review. The Court focus on whether the board’s decision was unsupported by substantial evidence, or constituted an abuse of discretion. This is very difficult to prove on appeal. Therefore, if you are trying to get a Mass. Hardship license, your best chance of success is to try to win at the Registry or Board of Appeal level. I am aware of no reported decision where any court overruled the Board’s exercise of discretion on the question of whether or not to grant a hardship license. Again, the best way to get a hardship license is to win at the Registry or Board of Appeal hearing. Once denied relief, it is unlikely that a superior court judge will reverse the Board’s discretionary decision. To summarize, the chances of reversing a Massachusetts hardship license denial in Superior Court are slim to none.

Although hardship license appeals are usually losers in Superior Court, it is often possible to win cases where the Board of Appeal and/or the Mass. RMV have made errors of law. I have an excellent track record of success in this area. If the Registry and/or the RMV Board of Appeal has misapplied the law or made a legal error, it is often possible to win.