Penalties for Driving While Suspended

Thousands of drivers are charged with operating after suspension or revocation in Massachusetts each year. These charges can have serious consequences in the form of fines, fees, towing, inconvenience, lost time from work, additional suspension time, habitual traffic offender penalties, reinstatement fees, court appearances, insurance premium increases and legal costs.

It is extremely easy to get caught driving while suspended in Massachusetts. Most police cruisers are equipped with laptops which are connected the Registry of Motor Vehicles. These computers will alert the police that a driver’s license has been suspended or revoked. Also, some cruisers have automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) systems. These systems automatically scan license plates.

A police officer cannot allow a motorist whose license has been suspended to drive away. This usually means that your car will have to be towed and you will be required to pay towing and storage fees. Sometimes you will be arrested and other times you will be summonsed to appear in court as a criminal defendant.

If you are convicted of operating after revocation, you may be sentenced to serve time in jail. This depends on your prior record and why your license was suspended. For example, If your license was suspended for DUI and you are convicted of driving on a license suspended for drunk driving, the law imposes a minimum mandatory 60 day jail sentence.  Given the potential penalties and consequences, it is advisable to hire a lawyer if you are charged with driving while suspended.

Many people who are prosecuted for OAS could have avoided the situation by being issued a hardship license or early reinstatement of the driver’s fulltime license by appearing either before the Driver Control Unit of the Registry of Motor Vehicles or the Division of Insurance, Board of Appeal. These two agencies have the ability to grant driving privileges when a person’s license has been suspended for certain reasons.

Given the penalties and consequences associated with an Operating After Suspension conviction, it might make sense to attempt to get a hardship license or full license reinstatement. Please contact us if you would like more information regarding these options.

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.

Hire a Lawyer BEFORE your hearing!

Here’s an all too common unfortunate situation:

I received a DUI continuance with out a finding in March of 2013. Although the courts were only trying me as a first time offender, I had a prior DUI with the same finding 7-8 years ago. I went to the hearing for my hardship license on my own about two months ago at the Board of Appeal and had a horrific experience, where they basically tell everyone there they are alcoholics. I have completed all of my alcohol classes and abide by my probation as well as go to work and go to school. I need a license to work and go to school and they denied me based on my prior driving record and that I have had prior suspensions. I have never even applied for this ever before during any prior suspension, and besides a major surchargeable accident I had a couple years ago, I had not a single citation in six years. I was told that they can’t refuse you if you are applying for a Cinderella license for the first time and I am not sure if this is true or if there is anything I can do to get back on the road any time soon. My suspension was for 2 years because the Registry counted my prior DUI against me. Just wondering if there is anything I can do at this point.

The unfortunate answer:

There’s nothing that you or I can do. The Registry is legally entitled, and in fact required, to treat you as a second offender and it is completely untrue that you cannot be denied for a Cinderella license for the first time. That is misinformation and totally inaccurate. The grating of a hardship license is purely discretionary. If you’re serious about getting a Cinderella license, you need to contact a lawyer before your hearing. The Board has made its decision and there is nothing that I can do to help you.

In some cases, the Board will give you a re-apply date and in those cases, I can represent you at a new hearing. However, in your case the Board voted to affirm the suspension and it did not give you an opportunity to re-apply for a new hearing. Therefore, you will have to serve the balance of your suspension and there is nothing that can be done.