Massachusetts Ignition Interlock Requirements

In the case of Ronsethal v. Registry of Motor Vehicles and RMV Board of Appeal, the Superior Court upheld the Ignition Interlock Device requirements of Melanie’s Law.

The facts of the case are as follows: Mark Rosenthal was arrested twice for operating a motor vehicle under the influence (OUI). His first offense occurred on April 3, 1985. He admitted to sufficient facts in Lawrence District Court and was placed on probation and assigned to an alcohol education program pursuant to G.L. c. 90, § 24D. Rosenthal complied with the conditions of his probation and was discharged on March 11, 1987.

On July 9, 2005, Rosenthal was arrested for a second OUI offense. He pled guilty or admitted to sufficient facts in Woburn District Court and was given a second chance first time offender disposition pursuant to G.L. c. 90, § 24D. The court suspended his license for forty-five days, placed him on probation for one year, and assigned him to an alcohol education program. Because Rosenthal refused to submit to a chemical breath test at the time of his arrest, the court suspended his license for an additional year, pursuant to c. 90, § 24(1)(f)(1).

On August 23, 2005, Rosenthal obtained a hardship license permitting him to drive between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. The hardship license was due to expire on August 29, 2008. Rosenthal became eligible for full reinstatement of his license in July 2006, but continued to drive on the restricted hardship license until August 2008. Beginning January 1, 2006 (and effective in July 2006 when Rosenthal became eligible for reinstatement), substantial changes had been made to Massachusetts’ OUI laws to require that persons with two or more OUI convictions install a certified IID on each vehicle that they own, lease or operate as a precondition to having a driver’s license restored. On August 25, 2008, Rosenthal sought to reinstate his license at the Registry of Motor Vehicles and was refused a full license unless he agreed to install an IID in his vehicle. He renewed his license with the twelve-hour operating restriction.

On January 22, 2009, Rosenthal requested a hearing with the Registry to remove the twelve-hour restriction. The Registry denied his request and issued a notice that effective February 22, 2009, Rosenthal’s license to operate would be revoked unless he agreed to install an IID in accordance with the statute. Rosenthal appealed to the Board. On April 15, 2009, the Board upheld the Registry’s ruling that Rosenthal must install an IID before his license will be restored in full.

Rosenthal argues that applying the IID requirement of Melanie’s Law to him constitutes an illegal retroactive application of the law because his actions and convictions occurred before January 1, 2006, when Melanie’s Law went into effect. However, Rosenthal did not become eligible to reinstate his license until July 2006, and he did not try to remove the hardship restrictions until August 2008.

In Gordon v. Registry of Motor Vehicles, 20 Mass L. Rptr. 563, 563 (Mass.Super.2006), plaintiff Joseph W. Gordon’s license had been suspended as the result of two OUI convictions. Despite Gordon’s eligibility to reinstate his license in full on December 17, 2005, he did not apply until January 3, 2006, two days after Melanie’s Law became operative. In denying his request for a preliminary injunction enjoining the Registry from enforcing the IID provision of Melanie’s Law against him, the Superior Court held that “the act triggering the application of Melanie’s Law to the plaintiff was Gordon’s application for a new license, not his previous OUI offenses.”

The Court in Rosenthal also ruled that the RMV Board of Appeal correctly concluded that the IID requirement as applied to Rosenthal does not violate due process, double jeopardy or ex post facto principles.

This case reaffirms the rule that if you have 2 or more OUI convictions on your record and you are reinstating your license, or coming off of a hardship license, on or after January 1, 2006, you will be required to use the interlock device for at least 2 years. There is no way around this.