About Attorney Brian E. Simoneau

Massachusetts RMV Lawyer

CT May Require Ignition Interlocks for 1st Offenders

IGNITION_INTERLOCKFirst offenders in the state of Connecticut may soon be required to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles if Senate Bill 465, which was unanimously passed by the Connecticut General Assembly is signed into law. A similar 1st offender interlock bill was proposed in Massachusetts and it is likely to be re-introduced. It would require those convicted of a first offense OUI to use the IID For 6 months in Massachusetts.

The Connecticut Interlock Bill, which is on the governor’s desk for signature, has received strong support by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The group recognizes that ignition interlock devices are more effective at combating DUI than license suspensions. MADD favors issuing ignition-interlock restricted hardship licenses. MADD’s goal is to have IIDs in every state for every convicted drunk driver.

Currently, a first offender in Connecticut can attend an alcohol education program and serve a license suspension ranging from 90 day to 1 year in length, without any requirement to use an ignition interlock device. Under the proposed legislation, IID requirements would vary based on the facts of the particular DUI case. Massachusetts drivers who are charged with DUI in Connecticut would be held to the same IID requirements as Connecticut drivers.

If the Governor signs the bill into law, it will go into effect in July of 2015. Last year, there were approximately 6,500 first offenders in Connecticut. This law would require any new first offenders to install ignition interlock devices as a condition of license reinstatement.

Currently, the State of Connecticut requires interlocks for anyone who is convicted of operating a motor vehicle under the influence. First offenders are able to avoid a “conviction,” and the interlock restriction, by attending an alcohol education program. Senate Bill 465 would require even these offenders who participate in the DWI diversion program to use the interlock devices, which have been proven to save lives.

Correcting Registry of Motor Vehicles Driving Records

court_recordsRegistry of Motor Vehicle records are what MassDOT uses to determine the length of driver’s license suspensions. These records are not always accurate and there are ways to correct these important records.

Many inaccuracies are the results of converting paper to computer records. Errors may have occurred when the records were “computerized” many years ago. The first step in challenging the accuracy of your Massachusetts Driving Record begins with obtaining your Board of Probation record from the Massachusetts Criminal History Systems Board or the Probation Department of the District Court.

Next, a comparison needs to be between your criminal and driving records.  Where there is a discrepancy, the Board of Probation record is usually found to be correct. As one Superior Court Judge observed, “This court is satisfied that the Board of Probation records of convictions (“BOP”) carry substantial reliability. They are frequently reproduced, examined by judges, probation officers, defendants and their counsel, and relied upon by the court in sentencing. Mistakes, though rarely found, are quickly corrected.”

The third step in the process is to obtain the court documents associated with the OUI case that is in dispute. Often, due to the age of these records, they are sometimes difficult to obtain. The records should be certified by the Clerk-Magistrate’s Office so that they can be introduced in official proceedings such as Registry, Court, and Board of Appeal Hearings.

The Clerk-Magistrate’s Office should send a “corrected abstract” or a “supplemental abstract” to the Massachusetts Merit Rating Board, which is located at the RMV Branch at 25 Newport Avenue Extension in Quincy, Massachusetts. Upon receipt, the Merit Rating Board will review the updated information from the Trial Court and compare it with any records on file at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Once the Merit Rating Board updates your driving record, you will likely need to appear at a hearing at the Registry of Motor Vehicles to contest the timing and length of the resulting driver’s license suspension(s). If the hearing outcome is not favorable, you have the right to appeal the Registrar’s decision to the Board of Appeal. The Board has the authority to review the RMV action and order the adjustment of suspensions and revocations in accordance with the law.

Prior DUI Convictions Will Count Against You

If you have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a prior DUI conviction could dramatically increase any resulting breathalyzer refusal or DWI license suspension. Massachusetts has a lifetime look-back and the prosecution will check multiple sources for prior DUI convictions or assignments to a drug or alcohol treatment program, which count just like convictions.

Prosecutors in Massachusetts operating under the influence (OUI) cases are likely to check computerized records, court files, your Massachusetts driving record, probation record, County and Municipal Court records, as well as DMV databases for any prior offenses.

A prior offense may disqualify you from being treated as a first offender and multiple DUI convictions will substantially increase the length of your DUI and/or chemical test refusal suspension, as well as the waiting period which you must serve prior to being considered for a hardship driver’s license.

In some cases, the prosecution will not be able to prove a prior offense “beyond a reasonable doubt” during the criminal DUI trial. This does not mean that the Registry of Motor Vehicles cannot consider that prior offense when calculating the length of your license revocation or when deciding if your will be ignition interlock required.

If you have been arrested for DUI and you have any prior offenses, you should disclose them to your lawyer as soon as possible. Also, out of state offenses count the same as those committed in Massachusetts. Basically, any prior DUI conviction or assignment to a program will count, regardless of when and where it happened.

Driving on a Suspended License Q&A

Situation: In January I got pulled over for driving with a suspended license.  The reason I was doing so was that I was never informed that my license was suspended.  I found out that it was due to lack of payment on a previous ticket that I had tried to pay but had done so improperly.  I was likewise never informed that the payment never went through.  I went to court and the charge was dropped for driving with a suspended license, but the suspension is still on my record.  The day after I got pulled over, I went to the RMV and paid all necessary fees and got my license reinstated, which shows that I want to do the right thing and would have just paid the initial fee properly had I known that it did not go through.  The suspension on my license has made my insurance incredibly expensive, and so I need to appeal the suspension because I was never informed that it was happening and certainly would have done what was necessary to avoid it.

Answer: Since the charge of operating after suspension was dismissed, there is no way that it is generating an insurance premium increase. Here, the driver wants to have the fact that her license was suspended for four months removed from her driving history. This is impossible. The Registry is legally required to maintain complete and accurate records. Accordingly, the RMV will not erase, purge, or expunge items from someone’s driving record. The record shows that the Clerk-Magistrate denied the complaint application on the suspended license charge and that cannot be used against the driver for insurance purposes.

Mass. Driving Record Q&A

Situation: In January I got pulled over for driving with a suspended license.  The reason I was doing so was that I was never informed that my license was suspended.  I found out that it was due to lack of payment on a previous ticket that I had tried to pay but had done so improperly.  I was likewise never informed that the payment never went through.  I went to court and the charge was dropped for driving with a suspended license, but the suspension is still on my record.  The day after I got pulled over, I went to the RMV and payed all necessary fees and got my license reinstated, which shows that I want to do the right thing and would have just paid the initial fee properly had I known that it did not go through.  The suspension on my license has made my insurance incredibly expensive, and so I need to appeal the suspension because I was never informed that it was happening and certainly would have done what was necessary to avoid it.

Answer: Since the charge of operating after suspension was dismissed, there is no way that it is generating an insurance premium increase. Here, the driver wants to have the fact that her license was suspended for four months removed from her driving history. This is impossible. The Registry is legally required to maintain complete and accurate records. Accordingly, the RMV will not erase items from someone’s driving record. The record shows that the Clerk-Magistrate denied the complaint application on the suspended license charge and that  cannot be used against  the driver for insurance purposes. Unfortunately, the law requires that the payment default suspension remain on the driver’s record.

Be Careful When Lending Your Car

Lending your vehicle to the wrong person in Massachusetts can have severe consequences such as the loss of your driver’s license. For example, if you lend you vehicle to someone whose license is suspended, the Registry may revoke the vehicle’s registration or your Massachusetts Driver’s License. Also, if you are convicted of knowing allowing someone who does not have a valid driver’s license to drive your vehicle, you may have a criminal offense on your record.

If you knowingly lend your car to someone who has an ignition interlock restriction on his or her license, and your car does not have an ignition interlock device (IID) it is a violation of Melanie’s Law and this carries a penalty of 1 year in the house of correction and a 1 year license and/or vehicle registration suspension.

Conversely, if you have an ignition interlock “Z” restriction on your driver’s license and you lend your vehicle to someone, the Registry’s Ignition Interlock Unit will hold you responsible for any alcohol readings, circumvention, disconnection, and/or tampering which occurs. You should definitely think twice before lending an ignition interlock equipped vehicle to anyone. Rolling re-tests failures and missed rolling re- tests often occur in these situations.

Finally, you must ensure that  only those household members who are listed on your policy as authorized drivers are allowed to operate your vehicles. If you let a driver operate your vehicle and he or she is not listed as a driver on your automobile policy, your insurance company may deny coverage. When your auto policy renews, you should carefully review it to confirm that it lists all authorized drivers. Lending your car to a household member who is not listed, especially an inexperienced operator, can result in huge consequences if there is an accident.

Be careful when lending your vehicle to someone to avoid the pitfalls listed above.

The Boston Branch of the Mass. RMV is Moving!

OWithin the next month, the Boston Branch of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles is slated to move to from 630 Washington Street to its new home at 136 Blackstone Street in Boston. The Registry’s telephone numbers will remain the same. You can continue to reach customer service a 857-368-8000 and the suspension unit at 857-368-8200.

The Registry’s new location is owned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and this move will save the state millions in real estate costs. The new Boston RMV branch will be located on the second and third floors of the MassDOT’s “Parcel 7” building, which is located next to the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Parking at the Registry’s new Boston location is expected to be a nightmare. The building contains its own parking garage. However, that garage only has 310 parking spaces which are accessible to the public. It is within walking distance to the Haymarket MBTA Station. The telephone number for the parking garage is (617) 973-6954.

The Boston Public Market will occupy the first floor of the building in 2015. This will feature fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods.

The Registry’s Special Investigations Unit, which conducts license fraud hearings and investigations, will remain at the State Transportation Building, 10 Park Plaza and the Registry’s Ignition Interlock Unit will remain at 25 Newport Avenue Extension in Quincy.  All ignition interlock violation hearings will continue to be heard at the Quincy location.

The Registry will conduct license suspension, hardship license, and reinstatement hearings at the Blackstone Street branch and it will be the only location in Massachusetts where you can appear for a chemical test refusal suspension, which must  be held within 15 days of your breathalyzer refusal suspension.

No Mass. License Reinstatement without Class

My license has been suspended due to the fact that I failed to complete the driver retraining program on time. I was ordered to take this class after I had received 3 tickets within 2 years for a bad sticker. One of which was my mother’s car. Then the year after I didn’t have the money right away to fix what I needed to get a sticker for my car right away. When I finally did get up the money the day I was taking the car to get fixed for the sticker I got pulled over. Then once again, I got stopped shortly after that driving my fiancé to work at 5am. I don’t believe I should have to take this course for having a bad sticker. It wasn’t a matter of reckless driving or speeding. It was a matter of not having money to fix my car for the sticker.  I don’t know if this is a mistake, it doesn’t seem fair.

Unfortunately, once you are required to take the class for accumulating surchargeable events, there is nothing that I can do. The law is clear and reinstatement orders from the Board of Appeal contain the following provision:

If you have not addressed: outstanding fines/fees related to the return of your motor vehicle license (ex: moving violations, excise tax, parking tickets, etc.); a requirement to complete a National Safety Council course; or reinstatement requirements for any out of state motor vehicle license suspension/revocation, any modification or issuance of a motor vehicle license by this Board will not be effective unless and until these requirements are satisfied.

You must take the class in order to get your license reinstated.

Mass. JOL Violations & License Suspensions

If the Registry has suspended your license due to a JOL violation, it is illegal for you to operate a motor vehicle until your license is fully reinstated. Also, the RMV can legally combine JOL offenses with any other prior and future motor vehicle offenses to determine impose new suspensions or reinstatement  requirements. The Mass. RMV states that you must serve JOL license suspensions even if you have since reached 18 years of age and are no longer the holder of a JOL.

If you are found responsible for speeding while on a JOL, the RMV will suspend your license for 90 days for a first offense, pursuant to G.L c. 90 § 20. Absent a successful appeal, MassDOT will not reinstate your license until you complete the Attitude Retraining Program, serve the entire suspension, pay the $500.00 reinstatement fee and pass written and road exams. The RMV will also require you to pass the State Courts Against Road Rage (SCARR) program if you have not already done so in the past.

You must provide proof of completing the NSC Attitude Retraining and SCARR programs to a Registry Hearing Officer when you reinstate. You cannot get your license reinstated if you have not taken the classes, even if you have served your suspension time.

You have a right to request a hearing on the suspension with an RMV Hearing Officer. If you appealed the citation in the District Court and you won the appeal, you should bring a certified motor vehicle abstract from the Clerk of Courts to your RMV hearing. Without the abstract, the citation record is deemed to be correct.

According to the Registry, you are not eligible for a hardship license or any driving privileges while suspended. However, the Board of Appeal does have the ability to grant a hardship license. No appeal will delay the suspension, which will not be postponed. The Registry holds hearings on a walk-in basis from 9:00AM-4:30PM weekdays (except holidays) at RMV offices in Brockton, Worcester, Springfield, Lawrence, and at the Driver Control Unit in Boston.

Marijuana & Mass. License Suspensions

Possession of less than an ounce of Marijuana has been “decriminalized.” Also, possession of marijuana with a valid “medical marijuana” card has been legalized under Massachusetts law. However, marijuana still remains an illegal controlled substance under federal law.

If you are convicted of a marijuana related offense such as criminal possession of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute, distribution, trafficking, or cultivation, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will automatically impose a license suspension. This is because the Massachusetts Drug Law, G.L. c. 94C, requires MassDOT to automatically suspend your driver’s license or right to operate whenever a Massachusetts, Federal, or even out of state court notifies the Registry’s Court Records or Suspension Department of the drug conviction. The RMV imposes these suspensions automatically, usually within 10 days of notification from the courts. In most cases, notification is automatic and done via a computer connection between the Clerk-Magistrates’ offices and the Mass RMV. Notification can also be accomplished by the submission of paper abstracts or faxes to the Massachusetts Registry’s Merit Rating Board in Quincy.

Once notification of a marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or other drug conviction is made, including convictions for Class A, B, C, D, and E controlled substances, which are classified under the Mass. Controlled Substance Act, G.L. c. 94C, action against your license or right to operate will be initiated.

If you have received a letter from the Registry of Motor Vehicles regarding the suspension of your license or right to drive from the Registry, you must cease operation of all motor vehicles in Massachusetts, regardless of whether or not you have a license issued by any other state. Also, no appeal of your drug suspension will prevent it from going into effect. If you are caught driving while suspended, you risk being arrested and if you are convicted you will have an additional loss of license which may disqualify you from hardship relief.

I have been very successful in appealing drug suspensions and obtaining full license reinstatements as well as 12 hour hardship licenses for qualified clients who have a valid need to drive. If you have lost your license due to a drug conviction, I urge you to contact me for legal representation. You may be able to get your full license back or a work license which allows you to drive for 12 hours each day, 7 days a week.

If you have received a civil citation for possession of less than one (1) ounce of Marijuana, this will not be reported to the Registry as conviction and you will not lose your Massachusetts Driver’s License or right to drive. However, other drug convictions, including criminal convictions involving marijuana, will result in the Registry taking action against your license.