The Notice Requirement in Mass. Operating After Suspension Cases

mass_registry_recordsDriving on a suspended license can sometimes result in minimum mandatory jail time and a new 4 year habitual traffic offender revocation. Therefore, fewer people charged with this crime plead guilty and more operating after suspension cases go to trial.

In order to obtain a conviction for driving while suspended, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt that the Registry of Motor Vehicles notified the person who is being charged that his or her license was suspended. This notice usually comes in the form of a letter from the Registrar, which his mailed to the person’s address on file with the Registry of Motor vehicles.

In the recent case of Commonwealth v. Manuel DosSantos, the defendant was arrested for OUI 4th offense and driving on a suspended license. He claimed lack of notice and the Appeals Court ruled that a letter from the Registry which bears the defendant’s name and date of birth, which was sent to the defendant’s address, is sufficient prima facie evidence to prove that the defendant was notified that his or her driver’s license was suspended.

DosSantos’ lawyer tried to claim that the Commonwealth had to prove that the Manuel DosSantos named in the letter was the same Manuel DosSantos who was charged with operating after suspension. The Appeals Court disagreed and ruled based on the above-listed facts, that the prosecution had met its burden of proof on the notification element of operating after suspension.

It is not surprising that DosSantos appealed his conviction, he was facing substantial jail time because he committed his 4th offense OUI while his license was suspended for OUI. This crime carries minimum mandatory jail time.

Manuel Dossantos was arrested for DUI 4th offense and driving on a suspended license as a result of an anonymous 911 call. At his trial, the prosecution introduced, into evidence, the 911 caller’s statements regarding Dosstanos having almost struck parked cars and driving the wrong way down a one-way street. These statements were inadmissible hearsay and, if Dossantos’ DUI attorney objected, the statements would not have been allowed into evidence. However, his DUI lawyer did not object at the time of trial. Instead, on appeal, Dossantos raised the issue. When this happens, instead of automatically sustaining the objection and blocking the evidence, the Appeals Court will strike the hearsay from evidence only when not doing so would result in a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice. This is a very difficult standard to satisfy and in this case, the Appeals Court did not strike the statements which would have been blocked at trial, had the DUI lawyer done his job and objected.

The conviction for 4th offense OUI, which carries mandatory jail time and a 10 year license revocation was allowed to stand. This case underscores the importance of hiring the best Massachusettsa DUI attorney you can afford.