Allowing Someone to Drive Suspended: Surprise Consequences

A little known feature of Melanie’s Law makes it a crime to knowingly allow a vehicle which you own or control to be driven by someone whose license has been suspended or revoked. Melanie’s Law also makes it a crime to knowingly allow someone with an ignition interlock restricted license to drive your vehicle if it is not equipped with a certified alcohol ignition interlock device.

The Mass. RMV can suspend, for up to one year, the registration of the vehicle which was improperly driven by the suspended or revoked driver or the license of the vehicle’s registered owner or the person who controlled the vehicle. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles has been taking action against licenses and registrations under this little-known law.

If you are the registered owner or person in control of a vehicle which is being driven by someone with a suspended or revoked license, you risk fines, jail time, and a suspension of your license and the vehicle’s registration. Likewise, if you allow someone to circumvent the Registry’s ignition interlock requirement, by driving a non-interlock equipped vehicle which you own or control, you may also face these harsh penalties.

Court Must Receive Criminal Traffic Ticket Within 4 Days

massachusetts_citation_trafficIf you have received a citation for a criminal automobile law violation in Massachusetts such as operating after suspension, reckless driving, operating to endanger, leaving the scene of an accident, driving without a license, operating after revocation, or driving an uninsured motor vehicle, you only have 4 days to request a clerk-magistrate hearing.

If the “criminal complaint application” box on the front of the citation is checked, to get a hearing on the question of whether criminal charges will be issued against you, you must get the citation to the court with in 4 days of the violation date. If you are requesting a clerk-magistrate hearing, which is highly recommended, you should sign and date the back of the ticket and sent it to the court address appearing on the front. You can not use the envelope which the officer may have given to you. The ticket must get to the court, and not the Registry of Motor Vehicles, within 4 days of issuance.

If you are interested in appealing the criminal citation to a clerk-magistrate, it is absolutely critical to get the ticket to the court within the 4 day period. The ticket will serve as your application for an appeal. If you do not file this within the required time period, you will generally give up your right to a hearing and your criminal motor vehicle law violation case will proceed to arraignment, the next step in the criminal court process.

If you have questions regarding this important legal issue, contact a Suspended License Lawyer for a free consultation.

Ignition Interlock Use to be Expanded in California

Those convicted of DUI in California may soon find themselves having to deal with the ignition interlock device.

The State of California is slated to operate the interlock pilot program from 2010 to 2016 in Sacramento, Alameda, LA, and Tulare counties. The ignition interlock device prevents a vehicle from starting if the user’s blood alcohol content registers above a pre-set limit, which in Massachusetts is .02.  Interlock devices are currently being used in California on a limited basis, when a judge requires the device for a DUI offender. 

California Ignition Interlock Device users will find out that the devices use non-alcohol specific and somewhat unreliable fuel cells, which can and sometimes do trigger false positive alcohol results. The interlock devices used in Massachusetts frequently mistake common products, foods, flavorings, and chemicals as alcohol. This can result in a 10 year or lifetime license suspension

New Mass. RMV Express Branch to Open in Attleboro

The Registry of Motor Vehicles announced on Thursday that it will open an express office in Attleboro to replace a full-service branch which was closed as a cost saving measure.

The express branch will open in one to two months and it will be located in the old post office building next to the Attleboro City Hall on Park Street. This RMV express office will serve customers in the area with no ongoing lease cost being incurred by the state.

This is an example of cooperation between state and local government for the benefits of the citizens. The Town will benefit because the RMV office will attract potential customers for merchants in the downtown area, which the town is trying to revitalize.


AAA and Mass. RMV Offer Elderly Driving Classes

In an effort to promote safe driving by elders, the Mass. RMV and AAA have been offering driving improvement programs and workshops specifically tailored for older drivers. The programs cover topics such as risk management/collision avoidance, vision, communication, speed, driving emergencies, and avoiding distractions. The program provides useful tips and encourages older drivers to adjust their driving habits, so that they will be able to drive safely. Re-testing of elderly drivers has been a hot topic in Massachusetts lately, in the wake of recent tragedies and accidents which involved older drivers.

The Mass. Registry uses the immediate threat and “regulatory complaint ” license suspension procedures to remove drivers from the road until their ability to drive safely can be assessed. Many elderly drivers have gone through this process which involves a license suspension hearing at the Registry of Motor Vehicles and usually medical, psychiatric, or vision examinations. Also, a competency road test is scheduled in some cases.

2009 Massachusetts Safety Belt Usage Observation Study

A report was recently released regarding the results of the 2009 safety belt observation study conducted in Massachusetts. The purpose of this study was to evaluate safety belt usage in Massachusetts. The report found that Mass. seatbelt usage rates are rate lower than the national average. In Massachusetts, a seatbelt violation in and of itself, does not allow a police officer to stop a motorist. The seatbelt violation must be combined with another automobile law violation to justify the traffic stop. Also, adult seatbelt violations are not considered surchargable events for insurance premium calculations or for purposes of the Mass. law regarding 5 or 7 surchargable event license suspensions. The full report can be downloaded from the Mass. Executive Office of Public Safety website.

September 12-18 is National Child Passenger Safety Week.  The EOPSS Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Program, in partnership with groups across the state, is arranging over a dozen checkup events where parents can have their child seats inspected and installed by nationally certified technicians.  The CPS Program is a statewide initiative made possible by federal grant funding. CPS aims to keep kids safe by educating parents and caregivers on the proper selection and use of child safety seats to ensure they have chosen the correct child safety or booster seat, that it is installed correctly, and that it’s used the same way each and every time they travel in their vehicle. To find a checkup event near you: or call the Child Passenger Safety Hotline at 1-877-392-5956.

Marlboro Man Caught with Fake Mass. License

A Marlboro man who allegedly produced a false license when police stopped him in Westborough defaulted, last week, at his arraignment on 2nd offense DUI, operating after suspension, refusal to identify himself, and drinking from an open container of alcohol in Westboro District Court this week. If he is convicted of 2nd offense DUI, he will be required to have an ignition interlock device while on a hardship license and for 2 years after getting his full license.

The driver produced a license which identified him as Jose Ramon Maldonado-Natal. However, through fingerprints, Westborough olice determined that his real name was Luis Samayoa-Rodriguez. He fraudulently obtained the license from the Registry of Motor Vehicles using an acquaintance’s information. There is a default warrant out for the man’s arrest. The false license charge is a felony with the possibility of a 5 year state prison sentence.

The Massachusetts State Police and the Registry of Motor Vehicles now use sophisticated facial recognition software to identify drivers who have multiple licenses. The system was purchased after 9/11 to prevent identity fraud. The system Digimark Biometric Identification 2.0 is an extremely effective tool which prevents identity fraud. It has detected hundreds of individuals with fake Mass. licenses.

New Mass. Driver License Safety Bill

Massachusetts lawmakers are working on a comprehensive driving-safety bill that was slated for completion by Labor Day. The new bill may require all drivers over a certain age to undergo certain testing to find out whether they have a physical and mental ability to drive safely. The bill may also require Massachusetts drivers with a certain number of accidents or traffic violations to undergo competency road tests. This bill comes after a string of accidents and incidents involving elderly drivers in Massachusetts. The bill may also require doctors to notify the Mass. RMV of any concerns regarding their patient’s ability to drive safely.

The Registry currently has a procedure for initiating medical immediate threat license suspensions, where the Registry can suspended a driver’s license and require the driver to undergo a medical, psychiatric, loss of consciousness, or vision screening examination. The current program also allows the Registry to perform competency road tests of drivers who are suspected of not being able to drive safely.

Mass. Ignition Interlock Law Declared Constitutional

On August 24, 2009, in the case of Joseph W. Gordon v. Mass. Registry of Motor Vehicles, the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled that Melanie’s Law is constitutional. Specifically, Gordon challenged the part of Melanie’s Law  that requires individuals with two or more DUI convictions, who seek a new  Mass. license or a reinstatement of a suspended or revoked license, to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on all vehicles they own, lease, or operate. Once installed on a motor vehicle, the user must blow into the IID in order to start the vehicle’s. The IID will not allow a vehicle to start if it detects a blood alcohol concentration level over a preset limit of .02.

Gordon was eligible to seek license reinstatement on December 17, 2005. He applied for the reinstatement on January 3, 2006, a few days after Melanie’s Law went into effect. The RMV refused to reinstate Gordon’s license without him having an IID installed on his vehicle. The Registry revoked Gordon’s Mass. Hardship License when he did not have the IID installed, as Melanie’s Law requires.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court determined that IID requirement of Melanie’s Law “does not violate Gordon’s constitutional protection against ex post facto laws.” The Court further determined that the ignition interlock requirement was no “double jeopardy.” The Court also ruled that citizens do not have fundamental right to a driver’s license and all that is required to satisfy substantive due process rights is a rational basis for the license regulation. Here, there was a rational basis for the ignition interlock restriction.

This case reiterates that ignition interlock devices are required for all second or subsequent DUI offenders whose licenses were suspended on or after January 1, 2006. It does not matter if the person, like Gordon, was eligible to reinstate after January 1, 2006. If the license reinstatement occurred after that date, use of the ignition interlock device is mandatory. Basically, if you are legally required to have interlock, there is no way around it. Neither the Mass. Registry nor the Board of Appeal will give you relief from ignition interlock requirements.


Beverly RMV Branch to Close

The Mass. RMV Branch in Beverly will close on Friday, September 11, 2009. This closing was part of a cost saving measure which involves relocating branches from locations where the Mass. Registry was leasing space to state-owned buildings. Branch relocations will save 1.7 million dollars in the coming year. RMV Branches have already closed in some locations including Framingham and Southbridge. The Registry opened a branch at the Charlton rest area on the Mass. Pike and a RMV Express Office at the Natick Service area on the Mass. Pike. These two new locations will replace the Framingham and Southbridge locations.

If you have a license suspension or hardship license issue, you cannot go to these new locations and you must go to a Branch which does Registry hearings. These license suspension and hardship license hearings are currently being done in Beverly, Boston, Brockton, Lawrence, Lowell, S. Yarmouth, Springfield, Wilmington, and Worcester. Not all of these RMV branches offer hearings every day.