Surchargeable Accidents and your Driver’s License

In Massachusetts, an accident is considered surchargeable if you were more than 50% at fault. Surchargeable accidents will count towards 7 surchargeable events license suspensions and they are likely result in future car insurance premium increases.

How much an at fault accident will increase your insurance rates depends on the rules and rating factors your insurance company has on file with the Division of Insurance. Most insurance companies assign a fixed number of points for each type of at-fault accident or traffic violation,and the total point value is used to determine a percentage increase to the premium for the policy. At-fault accidents may affect future insurance premiums for 3-5 years.

In many instances your Massachusetts automobile insurance premium will increase if you are found to be at-fault in an accident. However, Mass. law prohibits insurance companies from increasing your rates premium based on surchargebale accidents or traffic violations that occurred more than five years prior to your policy effective date.

In Massachusetts, courts ultimately determine who is at fault in a car accident. However, there are presumptions which your insurance company can use to impose surcharges. For example, if you rear-end another vehicle, you will be presumed to be more than 50% at fault. Likewise, in a single car accident, the operator will be presumed to be at fault and receive a surcharge.

When your insurance company finds you at fault in an accident, you will receive a surcharge notice. If you are at-fault in an accident with more than $500.00 in damages, your insurance company will notify the Massachusetts Merit Rating Board and the accident will appear on your driving record. With this happens, the RMV will count the accident towards 7 surchargeable event suspensions. It will not count towards habitual traffaic offender revocations.

You have the legal right to appeal a surchargeable accident to the Board of Appeal at the Division of Insurance. You must file your appeal within thirty (30) days of the surcharge date. Filing an appeal does not prevent your insurance company from increasing your insurance rate. However, if the Board of Appeal vacates the surcharge, your insurance company is legally required to refund any monies paid as a result of the premium increase caused by the fault determination.

The hearing is informal and public, and typically lasts 20 to 30 minutes. The Hearing Officer will make an audio tape recording of the hearing. You or your representative and the insurance company representative will each be given an opportunity to present all pertinent information.

You are entitled to call witnesses and you may ask questions of the insurance company’s representative. You are entitled to be represented by counsel. To reverse a surcharge, your testimony and evidence presented must overcome the presumption of fault. If you prevail, the Registry will remove the surchargeable accident from your Massachusetts driving record.

If the Board’s decision is unfavorable, you can appeal to Superior Court, within 30 days of receipt of the adverse finding.

Charged with an Ignition Interlock Violation? Hire a Lawyer.

I just spoke with a gentleman who is currently serving a 10 year revocation of his license for an ignition interlock violation. His ex-wife was driving his car after she had been drinking and she was the one who caused his ignition interlock device to register alcohol. This individual made the mistake of representing himself before the Registry of Motor Vehicles Ignition Interlock Department and the Registry found him in violation of G.L. c. 90 § 24 ½, the Mass. Ignition Interlock Law. He should have hired a lawyer to handle his Ignition Interlock Violation hearing , but he thought that he could handle it himself.

After serving several years without a license, he appealed the 10 year license revocation to the Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance. The Board has the legal authority to grant a hardship or full license, even when the Registry has ruled against you. The Board is extremely busy, as it handles upwards of 5,000 hearings a year on a shoestring budget, with a very minimal support  staff.  Again, this individual appeared without an attorney. Maybe he didn’t want to spend the money or maybe he thought that he didn’t need a lawyer. The Board affirmed the 10 year revocation of his license and gave him no relief.

He recently filed another appeal to go before the Board of Appeal again. This time, he received a letter from the Board informing him that hearing was previously held in his case and after due consideration the Board voted to affirm the decision of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles and it did not authorize him to file a new appeal.  Nevertheless, the Board received another appeal of the same license revocation which it had previously affirmed and the new appeal was filed without the Board’s approval. The letter further observed that the Appellant failed to seek, or has been denied, relief from the Superior Court Department pursuant to G.L. c. 30A § 14, and the Board of Appeal will take no action on the request. Translation: the Board said “no, and don’t come back.”

Unfortunately, there is nothing that I can do for this person and he must serve the balance of his 10 year Ignition Interlock Device Revocation before he can try to get his license back. When that time comes, he will have to take written and road tests, pay a reinstatement fee, and serve 2 years with the IID.  He had a strong case and a lawyer could likely have prevented him from losing his license in the first place.

You Have 20 Days to Appeal a Civil Motor Vehicle Infraction

calendarI have been getting some inquiries from people who have been cited for motor vehicle infractions and they appear to have legitimate defenses to the violations. However, they were found responsible because they failed to file their appeals within the required 20 day appeal period or pay the required $25.00 filing fee.

In Massachusetts, if you want to exercise your right to appeal a citation for civil infractions, you must do so within 20 days of your receipt of the citation. You can appeal by sending the citation to the Registry using the envelope provided by the police officer who issued you the citation. For your citation appeal to be docketed, you must pay the required $25.00 filing fee. The failure to pay the appeal fee may result in your appeal not being processed and you will lose you right to contest the citation.

Traffic tickets in Massachusetts can result in the imposition of license suspensions such as a 4 year habitual traffic offender revocation or a 60 day 7 surchargeable event suspension. Therefore, it is important to appeal if you were unjustly cited. Also, a responsible finding on a traffic citation may result in an increase in your automobile insurance premium.

Failing to file a timely citation appeal can result in unforeseen consequences such as the loss of your driver’s license and an increase in your car insurance rates.

The 20 day appeal period applies only to citations where the “all civil infractions” box is checked and there is a monetary fine amount listed. If the “criminal complaint application” box is checked on the citation, you only have four (4) days to appeal. You can do this by checking off the box on the citation indicating that you are requesting a hearing and signing the citation. You must then bring the citation to the Clerk-Magistrate’s office of the District Court which has jurisdiction over the location where the automobile law violation was alleged to have occurred.

If you fail to send the criminal complaint citation to the appropriate Clerk-Magistrate’s Office within 4 days, you will lose your right to a Clerk-Magistrate hearing and your case will likely be scheduled for an arraignment.

If you have received a citation for a criminal offense, meaning that the “criminal complaint application” box is checked, you should contact a lawyer to discuss your options and legal representation.

Complaint Regulatory Suspensions in Massachusetts

MassDOT imposes Complaint Regulatory license and registration suspensions for a variety of different reasons. The purpose of a complaint regulatory license suspension is to bring the driver in for a hearing and if the driver fails to appear the Registry will indefinitely revoke his or her license until the customer personally appears for a hearing and satisfies the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

One of the primary reasons for complaint regulatory suspensions in Massachusetts is allowing someone whose license is suspended to operate your motor vehicle. Under Melanie’s law, it is a criminal offense to knowingly lend your vehicle to a person whose license is suspended or revoked. However, you can have your vehicle’s registration revoked even without a conviction or even being charged. When law enforcement notifies the RMV that someone was operating a vehicle registered to you without a valid license, the Registry will automatically send you a complaint regulatory letter.

The Registry also imposes complaint regulatory suspensions in cases where Massachusetts residents have registered their vehicles out of state. If you are a Massachusetts resident, you must register your vehicles in Massachusetts. Many residents register their vehicles in other states to avoid having to pay Massachusetts automobile insurance rates. This is illegal and the RMV will take action against you if you are found to have improperly registered your vehicle out of state. You can also be cited by the police for this offense.

There are other reasons for complaint regulatory suspensions such as being issued a license without an ignition interlock “Z” restriction when you are legally required to have the IID. If you have received a complaint regulatory suspension letter from MassDOT, you must personally appear at a Registry hearing and you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer at that hearing. Call today to discuss your case.

Keep Your Mass. Driving Record Clean

The importance of keeping your Massachusetts Driving Record clean cannot be overstated. Having a poor driving record has a litany of potential negative consequences such as denial of employment, loss of a commercial driver’s license, civil liability, insurance premium increases, license suspensions, and employment consequences.

Many employers check their employee’s Motor Vehicle Records to insure that they are safe drivers. Violations can result in the loss of a company car, a reprimand, or a negative performance evaluation. CDL Drivers face stiff consequences for violations, especially those involving drugs or alcohol. Keeping your driving record clean can avoid employment consequences. Some employers require their employees to proactively report certain traffic violations and police contacts. Others may learn about off duty driving related incidents such as DUI offenses by periodically checking motor vehicle records.

In public safety occupations such as police officer or firefighter, your driving record will almost certainly be scrutinized as during the background investigation process and the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission has repeatedly upheld bypasses of candidates for employment as correctional officers, firefighters, and police officers based on driving records which show surchargeable events, citations and/or suspensions for 7 surchargeable events. The Massachusetts State Police also routinely rejects candidates due to driving records. Driving related criminal offenses such as operating under the influence will appear on your driver history and may result in your disqualification from employment.

Commercial Driver’s License Holders need to use special caution to keep their records clean and accumulating violations can result in CDL suspensions and disqualifications. For example, a single OUI conviction will result in a 1 year CDL suspension and two DUI convictions will trigger a lifetime CDL loss. Also, a breath test refusal is considered the same as a DUI for CDL license suspension purposes. This means that a DUI conviction with a prior chemical test refusal or vice versa, will result in a lifetime CDL loss.

School bus, livery, taxi, and limousine drivers should pay careful attention to avoid surchargeable accidents or receiving citations, as they could result in the loss of a job. Employers are becoming more conscious of negligent hiring and negligent entrustment cases and this has promoted them to place more weight on driving records.

If you drive an employer supplied vehicle, have a CDL, or may be a candidate for public safety employment, you should be careful to keep your driving record clean. This is especially true in Massachusetts where driving records cannot be sealed or expunged.

New Requirements for Massachusetts CDL Holders

massachusetts_CDLMassDOT has announced that holders of Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) in Massachusetts need to self-certify that they are in compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations prior to a deadline of January 30, 2014. This is required by the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and it is a national requirement.

CDL drivers need to certify required information to the Commercial Motor Vehicle section of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles regarding the type of business for which they operate a Commercial Motor Vehicle, the type of CDL vehicle which they drive, whether they drive only within Massachusetts or interstate, and whether the US DOT requires them to hold a valid medical certificate. CDL drivers who are required to carry medical certificates must provide a copy to MassDOT.

Commercial Drivers who are required to complete the self-certification process can do so on the Registry’s website, which will accept scanned or electronic copies of the medical card, if required. Mass. CDL holders can also mail or fax a completed and signed CDL Self-Certification Form to the MassDOT Driver Licensing CDL Unit.

Massachusetts CDL Drivers who fail to comply will the requirements will have their CDL driving privlidges indefinitely revoked and the Mass. RMV will disqualify them from driving a CDL. If the driver does not update his or her information after disqualification, the Registry will automatically downgrade the CDL to a Class D passenger car license within 60 days. Failure to comply with the certification requirements and fully reinstate the CDL within a 12 month period will require the driver to re-take CDL written and road tests.

Mass. License Fraud Suspensions

Using facial recognition and cross-matching technology, the Registry of Motor Vehicles has been generating a substantial number of indefinite license revocations for COMP FRAUD LIC/ID. The Registry imposes these indefinite suspensions whenever the Special Investigations Unit, which is made up of RMV officials and State Troopers, has reason to believe that the crime of license fraud occurred.

If you received a letter from the Registry’s Special Investigations Unit accusing you of license fraud, you should contact a lawyer. The penalties for presenting fraudulent documents and information in Massachusetts are severe. Pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 24B, procuring or attempting to procure a Massachusetts learner’s permit, a license to operate motor vehicles, or a RMV identification card is a felony which carries a sentence of up to 5 years in state prison.

Providing false information to obtain a permit, license, or ID is also a felony which carries a sentence of up to 5 years in prison. Falsely impersonating another person to obtain license, permit, or ID is also a felony and it may constitute the crime of identity theft, which is in addition to the separate crime of license fraud.

It is a crime to attempt to obtain a license, permit or ID and this crime is complete as soon as false information is provided. It does not matter whether the false information resulted in the issuance of a license or not. Providing a false social security number is a criminal offense, even if you provide your true name and date of birth.

In addition to any criminal penalties, license fraud will result in the automatic suspension of your driver’s license or right to operate, even if no criminal charges are filed.
The Registry detects license fraud in a variety of ways such as facial recognition and cross-matching information provided with the U.S. Social Security Administration. If you have received a letter from the Registry regarding license fraud, you should contact a lawyer to discuss your case and options. I have successfully handled a large number of Massachusetts License Fraud cases.

The Mass. Ignition Interlock Device Law

Every state has enacted a law permitting a court or administrative agency to order a convicted drunk driver to install an ignition interlock for some period after conviction. In Massachusetts, at present, this requirement applies to those who have 2 or more operating under the influence convictions or alcohol program assignments. The ignition interlock device restriction will be applied to any hardship license and it will remain in place for 2 years after the repeat offender has his or her hardship hours removed.

Ignition interlock proponents such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving are attempting to require even first offenders in Massachusetts to drive only with an ignition interlock for a 6 month period.

Ignition interlock devices require a driver to provide a breath sample which does not contain alcohol before allowing the driver to start his or her vehicle. It also requires periodic rolling re-tests. Not taking or failing rolling re-tests can result in a long-term license revocation.

In addition to an automatic license revocation, operating without an ignition interlock device carries minimum sentence of 2½ years to 5 years in state prison, with a minimum mandatory 6 month sentence and a fine of $1,000.00 to $15,000.

Current Ignition interlock devices use technology to detect any tampering, circumvention, or unauthorized disconnection. Any of these acts can trigger severe penalties and license revocations.

As evidenced by one recent case, Massachusetts judges are not sympathetic to those who drive in violation of the ignition interlock restriction. When one defendant was before the court for driving without the IID, the Judge scolded him as follows, “it’s the sense of entitlement. Rules don’t apply to me, so I’m going to do whatever it takes to pursue my livelihood, even though that’s in the face of a restriction.”

If you have questions regarding the Massachusetts IID law or if you have been accused of an ignition interlock violation, you should contact a lawyer who specializes in ignition interlock defense. Effective legal representation may save your driver’s license and prevent a jail sentence.

Road Tests for Mass. License Reinstatements

If your Massachusetts Driver’s License is suspended or revoked for over one year, MassDOT may require you to take a written and road test prior to getting your license reinstated. Also, the Registry routinely requires competency road exams for those who have had their licenses suspended as a result of a “complaint medical” or an “immediate threat medical.”

Depending on how long you have been off the road, you may want to attend a driving school and practice driving prior to taking your road test with the Registry of Motor Vehicles. As adults, we may pick up some bad driving habits and these habits may cause you to fail your road test and have to re-schedule.

When you a take a road test in Massachusetts, you will be held to the same standard of a sixteen and a half year old who has never held a driver’s license before. The Registry examiner may require to you to demonstrate all of the driving maneuvers customarily required of those who are being licensed for the first time. These include parallel parking, three point turns, using hand signals, demonstrating the proper use of the parking brake and the like.

Also, as the operator of a motor vehicle in Massachusetts, the Registry will require to insure that all passengers have their seat belts securely fastened before you start the vehicle or put the vehicle in motion. Not wearing your seatbelt or insuring that the road test examiner and sponsor have their seatbelts fastened before proceeding is an easy way to fail your road test.

Common ways that people fail road tests in Massachusetts include: failing to come to a complete stop at a red light or stop sign, failure to signal, blocking a crosswalk, and failing to look while backing. These are just a few examples a good driving instructor can help insure that you do not make these common mistakes.

If you are reinstating after a 2rd, 3rd, or 4th offense DUI suspension, you will be ignition interlock required pursuant to the IID Provision of Melanie’s Law, G.L. c. 90 § 24 ½. This means that you will have to take your road test in a vehicle which is equipped with a certified ignition interlock device. You will be ignition interlock required, and have a “Z” restriction on your driver’s license while any hardship limitation is in place and for at least two year after the removal of the 12 hour driving restriction.

If you are taking a road test in a vehicle which does not have a center console mounted emergency brake, you should notify the Registry Hearings Officer who schedules your road test. Notifying the Registry of this will allow them to schedule the test with an examiner who can perform the road test without a center console emergency brake. Otherwise, your road test may have to be rescheduled.

You must have a sponsor accompany you for the road test, just as you would if you were getting a driver’s license for the first time. The sponsor will be required to sit in the back seat and the RMV examiner will sit in the front passenger seat.

The vehicle which you are using for the road test must be registered, inspected, insured, and in good working order. It must have functioning seatbelts, turn signals, and other required equipment. If you are IID restricted, your vehicle must have a functioning ignition interlock device which you must use during the road test.

If you have questions regarding road tests in Massachusetts, you can contact the Registry of Motor Vehicles at 857-368-8000.

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.