Mass. Registry Must Run Out of State Suspensions Upon Conviction

In the case of DiGregorio v. Registrar of Motor Vehicles, Docket No.: No. 10-P-292 (February 17, 2011), the Massachusetts Appeals Court has ruled that the Registry of Motor Vehicles must commence out of state DUI suspensions as of the date of the out of state drunk driving conviction and not when the Mass. Registry learns of the out of state DUI conviction.

This ruling represents a major victory for Massachusetts DUI Attorneys, who have repeatedly fought the practice of imposing license suspensions for out of state DUI convictions years after the conviction date. The Mass. Appeals Court ruled that the plain language of the Massachusetts DUI law prohibited the practice of starting license suspensions for drunk driving offenses years after the conviction entered and the case was closed. The Registry interpreted the law in a different way and it believed that it could legally commence out of state DUI license suspensions whenever it received notification from other states because G. L. c. 90, § 22(c) states that “the registrar shall give the same effect to said conviction for the purposes of said suspension, revocation, limitation or reinstatement of the right to operate a motor vehicle, as if said violation had occurred in the commonwealth.” The Appeals Court rejected this argument, ruling that the law upon which the Registry relies, “does not speak to the question at hand: how long a suspension based on those convictions must last, regardless of whether they occurred in or out of State.”

This outcome of this case will be particularly helpful to those clients who are appealing out of state license suspensions which the Registry imposed upon receipt of so-called “late abstracts.” In one case, for example, the client was arrested for OUI 1st offense in Connecticut on October 20, 2001. On August 12, 2010, the Registry discovered this and suspended his license for one (1) year. This was improper, as the Registry lost the ability to suspend the man’s license upon the expiration of the 1 year statutory suspension period.

It is currently unknown how the Registry will respond to this ruling. The RMV has the option of appealing the decision to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court or having legislation filed to change the law.