Clearing National Driver Register Revocations

The National Driver Register (NDR) is administered and overseen by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The purpose of this system is to remove dangerous drivers from the roadways by sharing certain information between states. The law governing the NDR requires state driver licensing officials, such as the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, to submit data on drivers whose privilege to operate a motor vehicle has been denied, suspended or revoked for cause, or who have been convicted of certain serious traffic related violations, such as DUI.

Although States use the NDR as part of their driver licensing process, it is the responsibility of the individual States to maintain the accuracy of the data submitted to the NDR. The NDR functions as the central repository of the data but cannot make any changes to this data, which is submitted by Motor Vehicle Departments across the country. The States maintain the sole responsibility for the issuance and renewal of all driver licenses; which includes suspension/revocation actions that have been taken against your driver privilege. Reinstatement requirements must be resolved directly with the State which has taken the action against your license.

This means that you must deal with the state where the problem originates and reinstate your right to operate in that state prior to attempting to reinstate here in Massachusetts.

Maine DUI Suspensions

maine_duiIf you are a Massachusetts resident who commits the crime of Operating Under the Influence of Liquor in the State of Maine, you will have to deal with both the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to get your driver’s license reinstated.

The State of Maine will suspend your right to operate of your BAC is at or above .08. Also, like Massachusetts, Maine will immediately suspend your right to drive if you refuse to submit to a chemical test. In Maine, Chemical Test Refusal Suspensions can last for up to six years. In Massachusetts, CTR suspensions can last a lifetime.

A Maine DUI arrest will likely result in a reciprocal suspension of your Massachusetts Driver’s License and a block in the National Driver Register (NDR). This indefinite NDR suspension can only be removed once you satisfy all requirements in both Maine and Massachusetts.

In addition to the indefinite NDR suspension, once the RMV learns of the Maine DUI conviction, your Mass. license will be automatically suspended for one year up to life here in Massachusetts. In many cases, I can get the MA suspension reduced or “deemed served.”

A first offense DUI conviction in Maine will result in a license suspension of 150 days, during which time you will not be eligible for any type of work or hardship license in Massachusetts. You can only be considered for hardship relief by the Mass. RMV when your right to drive has been reinstated in by the Maine DMV.

If you are convicted of DUI in Maine, you must attend and satisfactorily complete the Maine Driver Education and Evaluation Program (DEEP) as a condition of reinstatement. You must also pay all required fines and fees in full. It is imperative that you request and obtain “proof of completion” of this program.

Arrest Warrants and License Suspensions

If you fail to appear in court in Massachusetts when you are required to do so, a judge may issue a warrants for your arrest. When this happens, the Clerk-Magistrate’s Office will notify the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the RMV will automatically suspend your driver’s license and/or right to operate a motor vehicle in Massachusetts. Once this happens, you will not be able to get your driver’s license or right to operate reinstated until the arrest warrant is recalled by the court.

If you have moved out of state, you may be denied licensure in your new state due to a NDR block on your license record. Also, if you have already obtained an out of state license, it may be suspended due to the Massachusetts suspension which was triggered by the issuance of a warrant. Finally, you may be denied renewal of your license by your home state motor vehicle department because of the Massachusetts arrest warrant.

In most, but not all cases, if you have a Massachusetts arrest warrant for a minor offense, you will not be arrested if you are stopped by the police outside of Massachusetts. On the other hand, if you are stopped in Massachusetts, you will be arrested “on the spot.” This is because an arrest warrant is basically a legal command from a judge to the police to arrest the person named in the warrant and bring him or her before the court to answer to criminal charges.

There is no “statute of limitations” which allows you to remove the warrant without addressing the underlying court case and warrants do not expire. Instead, they will remain in the system until they are recalled by a judge. Unless this occurs, your Massachusetts license will remain indefinitely suspended.  If your license was suspended due to the issuance of an arrest warrant, absolutely no hardship license of any kind will be issued.

Some people mistakenly believe that their driver’s license is automatically reinstated once the warrant is recalled by the court.  This is not true. Once your license is suspended, you go to the RMV and pay the required reinstatement fee prior to driving. Simply taking care of the warrant does not reinstate your right to drive.

My office has extensive experience in dealing with license suspensions, especially for out of state clients who have NDR blocks. Please contact me if you need assistance. If you need help clearing a warrant, I can refer you to a criminal defense lawyer who can help you.

Massachusetts Consequences for Out of State DUI

If you are the holder of a Massachusetts Driver’s License or you are a resident of Massachusetts, an out of state DUI or DWAI conviction will result in the suspension of your Massachusetts license. This is because General Laws c. 90, § 22(c), requires the Mass. Registrar of Motor Vehicles to give the same effect to out-of-state motor vehicle violations as if they had occurred in Massachusetts for the purpose of license revocation and suspension. The combination of the Massachusetts OUI Statute and G.L. c. 90, § 22(c), require the RMV to treat out-of-state convictions by way of guilty pleas for alcohol-impaired driving as drunk driving convictions under the OUI Statute for the purpose of license suspension.

The elements of the out of state drunk driving offense do not have to precisely match the elements of the offense in Massachusetts. Therefore, the RMV is legally entitled to treat substantially similar offenses as “like violations” which trigger Massachusetts license suspensions, regardless of the punishment imposed by the Motor Vehicle Department where the violation occurred. Also, under Massachusetts law, a plea of guilty or nolo contendere counts as a conviction, regardless of where or when the plea or conviction entered.

For example, the Mass. RMV suspended Joseph Bellino’s Massachusetts driver’s license in 1992 pursuant to G.L. c. 90, § 24D, the first offender law,  for operating while under the influence of alcohol. In 1996, Bellino was convicted in New York of driving while ability impaired.  Bellino appealed his license suspension, arguing that the Registry had no legal authority to suspend his license in Massachusetts for the New York DWAI conviction, counting it as a second offense. The Superior Court ruled that the Registrar properly suspended Bellino’s license for an additional period of two years, pursuant to G.L. c. 90, §§ 22(c) and 24(1)(c)(2), after counting the New York DWAI conviction as a second OUI offense.

If you are faced with an out of state DUI incident, you or your out of state lawyer should contact a Massachusetts lawyer who is familiar with the workings of the Mass. RMV for advice regarding the consequences which you will face in Massachusetts. In some cases, it is possible to get out of state suspensions reduced or eliminated.

Reckless Driving in Virginia Triggers Massachusetts Suspensions

VIRGINIAIf you are the holder of a Massachusetts Driver’s License or you are a Massachusetts resident, the Registry will treat any motor vehicle violations which you commit as if they had occurred in Massachusetts.  This may cause you to have your license suspended or revoked in Massachusetts for an offense which does not carry any loss of license in the state where the offense occurred.

For example, in the State of Virginia, if you exceed the speed limit by 20 MPH or you travel at a speed greater than 80 MPH, you can be found to have committed the offense of Reckless Driving. There is no automatic license loss associated with this offense in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In Massachusetts, however, a reckless driving conviction will trigger an automatic 60 day license suspension for a first offense.

I have recently received numerous calls and inquiries from Massachusetts residents who have been cited for reckless driving in the Commonwealth of Virginia. These unsuspecting motorists have paid reckless driving citations, not knowing that their licenses would be suspended in Massachusetts. In each of these cases, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles notified the Mass. RMV of the reckless driving citations and payments. These notifications have triggered automatic 60 day license suspensions. The motorists appealed the suspensions to the Suspension Unit of MassDOT and in all cases, the hearings officers have upheld the suspensions based on the out of state violations. The only recourse in these situations is to appeal the suspensions to the Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. Unlike the Registry, the Board of Appeal does not conduct hearings on a walk in basis. Therefore, the motorists will likely have to serve at least some of their suspensions prior to getting their “day in court.”

Likewise, the offense of careless driving in the State of Florida will also trigger a reckless driving suspension in the State of Massachusetts and the Registry has consistently upheld these suspensions, forcing the aggrieved appellants to seek relief from the Board of Appeal.

Caught in a Catch-22 Between States

The Situation:

I have run into a situation from the state of NM and am not sure if I need a lawyer to fix this now or not. I got a DUI in 2006 in the state of Florida. I paid all my fines, took the schooling required, went through the entire process,and got my normal license back in Florida. I then moved to NM several years later. After not so much as a parking ticket for five plus years.

When arriving in NM almost 6 years after my offense I was told I would have to surrender my license again and have an interlock device installed due to state laws. I complied had the device added to my vehicle for the “1 year period” at a substantial cost, after nine months of having it in my car, I had to move to Massachusetts due to my other half being moved for work. I called the DMV to get guidance, they directed me to someone in charge of the interlock system in the state. I have her name written down, but for now I guess not important. She stated I would have to pay the interlock company the remainder of the year, have it removed and then not drive my vehicle for the remaining time. She told me they would not release my license until the year was up and I would have to have my car towed to Massachusetts and not drive at all until May 15th 2014. I did that at a cost of over $2200.00, it was the law (double jeopardy if you asks me), I complied. She stated at the end of a year I would have to pay a fee to NM of 100.00 to have my license reinstated. At the end of the year I paid the fee and had my license reinstated I thought.

I went to the DMV here in Massachusetts and they had me get my driving record from NM so they can process a license for me. NM states I am clear and can fly there and get a new license, but they can not remove the restriction for interlock though they say I have done everything correctly and am able to get a license. They say the system will not allow them to remove the restriction but I am clear to get a license. Massachusetts DMV says they can not process license without the restriction being removed and the two agencies were literally arguing over the phone with each other. MA says they should just remove the restriction and NM says the system does not allow that, I would have to fly back there and get my license renewed there then move out of state.

This has been a nightmare from the start. I am no longer a resident of NM and in order to renew my license there, I would have to purchase a round trip plane ticket, then I would have to lie and state I am a resident, however they will not allow my license to be reinstated in another state or remove the restriction, even through I have completed the year and done everything thing they have asked. I am lost as to what to do next. What I would like to do is sue the state of NM for all my time and energy lost and for “Double Jeopardy” though I am sure they have some justification as to why they are able to penalize a person who has already paid the price once, with a law they created to be backwards compatible, and create more funds for their broke down state.

Is this the kind of situation you handle? What kind of costs would be associated with getting this fixed? For this same DUI offense I have now paid in the state of Florida to the tune of approximately $9000.00, the state of New Mexico six years later, to the tune of another $4500.00 including the interlock installation, check ups removal and towing of my vehicle, fees and state gouging. It appears I will now have to hire an attorney because the two states can not agree on how the system works, both sides agree I should be able to get a license and both blame the other for the reason that its not able to be processed.

The Answer:
MassDOt does not have this record blocked in the NDR and there is no suspension in effect in Massachusetts. Therefore, this person should be able to get a license in his state of residence. He is not IID required under Massachusetts law, because he only has one (1) operating under the influence conviction.

NH DUI Penalties for Massachusetts CDL Holder

A Massachusetts resident and holder of a commercial driver’s license CDL is facing a DUI charge in New Hampshire. He had a prior OUI conviction in Massachusetts in 1982. He has questions about the implications of being convicted of DUI in New Hampshire and he is trying to decide whether her should fight his New Hampshire DUI charge or plead guilty. This is a complicated situation because it involves the CDL issue as well as the interplay between the two states. The New Hampshire DMV has already notified the Massachusetts Registry about his chemical test refusal suspension in NH and the Mass. RMV has suspended his license indefinitely due to the out of state breath test refusal.

Massachusetts uses a “lifetime look back” period to determine penalties for a subsequent DUI offense. This is true with respect to both a non-commercial operator and commercial driver’s license.

New Hampshire utilizes a “ten year look back” period to determine a second DUI offense for non-commercial operators. However, for commercial drivers the look-back period is governed by federal law 49 C.F.R. § 383.51, which was adopted by New Hampshire. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, states were not required to give the restrictions set forth in 49 C.F.R. § 383.51 retroactive effect. To comply with the federal regulation, states are required to only count offenses which occurred on or after July 17, 1994. However, nothing prohibits states from considering offenses which occurred prior to July 17, 1994, for the purposes of CDL suspensions and disqualifications.

The Massachusetts RMV will suspend a 2nd offender’s regular passenger car driver’s license for two years. The Massachusetts RMV will require second and subsequent offenders to install an ignition interlock device for additional two year period, as a condition of reinstatement.

If a second offender is granted a hardship license during the two-year suspension period, he or she will also have to have ignition interlock device installed during this period. This means that the interlock device would be installed during the period of early hardship reinstatement, as well as during the additional two years after the full reinstatement. Also, Massachusetts will not consider a DUI offender for a hardship license until your his or her privilege to drive is cleared in the state where the offense occurred. In this case, the driver must be clear in the State of New Hampshire.

Federal law prohibits states from issuing CDL hardship licenses. In addition, the law does not permit an interlock device to be installed in a commercial vehicle.

Even if the driver gets a not guilty disposition in New Hampshire, he still faces a lifetime loss of his CDL for refusal to take the breath test combined with the 1982 OUI. This is because the refusal to take a breath test all by itself, even if not followed by a DUI conviction, counts the same as a DUI for CDL purposes. Unless he can get the chemical test refusal overturned, he faces a lifetime CDL disqualification, even if the NH DUI is resolved in his favor.

This case illustrates the complexities of what appears, on the surface, to be a simple drunk driving case. Because multiple states and CDL regulations are involved, it makes sense to received guidance from a lawyer who specializes in license suspensions and reinstatements.

New Hampshire May Soon Issue Hardship Licenses

Those facing New Hampshire DUI suspensions may soon be able to get their driving privileges restored with ignition interlock restricted hardship licenses. Currently, the State of New Hampshire Motor Vehicles Bureau does not issue hardship licenses. However, if New Hampshire House Bill 496 passes, that will change.

First offenders who have lost their licenses for DUI in New Hampshire may have the right to apply for and be considered for hardship licenses which grant limited driving privileges. Unlike in Massachusetts, where hardship requests are submitted to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, in New Hampshire, the requests would go to the courts.

Similar to the Massachusetts requirements, hardship licenses would only be granted for work, school, or medical reasons. The New Hampshire BMV would also grant hardship license to allow an offender to attend a substance abuse treatment or rehabilitation program.

Any hardship license granted would have a mandatory interlock restriction and a violation of the hardship license restrictions would result in revocation of the license.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) favors ignition-interlock restricted hardship licenses over license suspensions on the grounds that nothing physically prevents a person whose license is suspended from operating a motor vehicle. Here, with the mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices,  DUI offenders are physically prevented from starting their vehicles if alcohol is detected.

Supporters of Melanie’s law in Massachusetts have been trying to change Melanie’s law to require interlock usage for first offenders for a period of 180 days. Interlocks are currently only required for repeat offenders in Massachusetts.

Circumvent Your NDR Indefinite Suspension with a Colorado Driver’s License

license_loopholeThe Interstate Driver License Compact (DLC) was designed to prevent drivers from avoiding license suspensions and revocations by obtaining a new license in one state when the driver’s license was suspended or revoked in another state. However, there is a “loophole” which may allow drivers whose licenses are suspended or revoked in Massachusetts to obtain licensure in the State of Colorado.

The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has procedures in place whereby it will issue drivers licenses to individuals who have had their licenses suspended or revoked in other states. Thus, in accordance with 1 CCR 204-16(B) it may be possible to get a Colorado license even if the Mass. RMV has suspended or revoked your license for a long period of time.

In order to get a Colorado license when your Massachusetts license is revoked or suspended, you must serve one (1) year of the Massachusetts suspension or revocation, during which time you must not have operated a motor vehicle. You cannot have any convictions of motor vehicle violations after the license suspension. You must prove Colorado residency by showing utility bills, voter registration, Colorado employment, or other items which indicate that you are a Colorado resident.

At your licensing hearing before the Department of Revenue, all out of state offenses must be viewed as if they had occurred in Colorado for reinstatement purposes. With credit for time served from the commencement of the suspension or revocation, if you have served the entire suspension under Colorado law, you are eligible to be licensed in Colorado. If your reinstatement date, based on applying Colorado law to your violations, is in the future, you can apply for a Colorado license on that date, even if your license or right to drive is suspended or revoked in Massachusetts.

This “loophole” might present a valuable opportunity to those who have lost their licenses in Massachusetts because, with the passage of Melanie’s Law, the Massachusetts RMV imposes harsh license suspension penalties for repeat drunk drivers. For example, second offenders face 2 year license suspensions, third offenders will have their licenses revoked for 8 years, 4th DUI offenders will lose their licenses for 10 years, and in Massachusetts 5th offenders will have their licenses revoked for life.

In contrast to these severe penalties in the form of long Massachusetts license suspensions, the State of Colorado has comparatively lenient penalties for DUI. For example, for qualified defendants, it has minor charge of driving while ability impaired (DWAI), which carries no license suspension for a first offense. 2nd DUI offenders have their licenses suspended for 2 years, and those who have 3 DUI convictions will only lose their licenses for 2 years in Colorado.

Here is an example of how the “loophole” works. Suppose the Mass. Registry revoked your license for 3 DUI convictions on March 5, 2010.  This mandatory 8 year revocation would run until March 3, 2018. However, on March 5, 2012, you could apply for a Colorado license. The Colorado DMV would override the block in the National Driver Register and issue you a driver’s license despite the mandatory 8 year DUI 3rd offense revocation.


Name Change Triggers Fraud Suspension

FLORIDA_DMV Most brides take their husband’s names. However, increasingly, some men are taking their new wives’ names. This recently resulted in a one year suspension for license fraud. Florida and national news outlets have recently reported that Lazaro Sopena took his new wife’s last name shortly after they got married. Using his marriage license, he obtained a new social security card, passport, and credit cards.  He used these legitimately obtained documents to obtain a new Florida Driver’s License which the DMV willingly issued in his new name. Basically, he followed the same procedures that a woman would follow to take her husband’s last name. However, it did not work out very well in this man’s case.

license_fraud_nameShortly after changing his name, he received a letter from the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles indicating that his right to operate would be suspended for one year for license fraud. He tried obtaining a hardship license, which the Florida DMV allows drunk driving but not in license fraud cases. He had difficulty working as a real estate broker, as he was not able to drive clients to view homes for sale.

Eventually, after suffering with a suspended license, Mr. Sopena, who changed his last name to Dinh, hired a lawyer and appealed the 1 year license fraud suspension. The Florida DMV reconsidered its position and it vacated the license fraud suspension when Mr. Dinh provided legal documentation which showed that he followed all of the proper procedures for changing his name.

This situation would not have occurred in Massachusetts because MassDOT has procedures in place which allow a husband to take his wife’s name. Apparently, only Massachusetts and eight other states, allow a man to change his surname to his wife’s name on his driver’s license.