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Breathalyzer Refusal License Reinstatement

If MassDOT suspended or revoked your driver’s license or right to drive in Massachusetts, due to a breathalyzer or chemical test refusal, you may be able to get your license or right to operate fully reinstated if you are found not guilty of DUI or the operating under the influence charge is dismissed.

Massachusetts driver’s licenses which are suspended or revoked due to chemical test refusals are not automatically reinstated because although these license suspensions have some connection to the criminal DUI proceedings, they are administrative civil sanctions which are non-punitive in nature.  

Melanie’s Law provides that when a not guilty finding enters or dismissal of alcohol related charges occurs, the defendant is allowed to immediately have a hearing before the judge who handled the DUI case to decide whether or not to terminate the breathalyzer or chemical test refusal suspension and order the Mass. RMV to reinstate the person’s driver’s license.

The law requires that the judge who presided over the drunk driving trial rule on the license reinstatement motion because he or she is in the best position to determine whether ordering the Registry to reinstate the license would endanger the public.

These license restoration & reinstatement hearing is not available if the drunk driving case was continued without a finding (CWOF’ed) after the defendant made an admission to sufficient facts, until the continuance period expires and a final dismissal of the case is entered. Also, in order to take advantage of these license restoration hearings, there can be no alcohol-related charges pending against the person seeking reinstatement anywhere.

There is a rebuttable presumption that the person who was acquitted of operating under the influence should have the chemical test refusal suspension terminated and his or her license reinstated unless the prosecutor convinces the judge that returning the driver to the road would jeopardize public safety. The judge presiding over the license restoration hearing must decide by a preponderance of the evidence and he or she is required to make written findings of fact.

These license restoration hearings provide a means to get back on the road after having refused a breathalyzer test and having been acquitted of operating under the influence. In some cases, it makes sense to file for this hearing immediately upon entry of the dismissal or not guilty verdict. In other cases, where the person seeking reinstatement has prior DUI convictions or where there is evidence that reinstating the person’s license may endanger the safety of the public, it might make sense to delay requesting the hearing so that evidence can be presented regarding sobriety, alcohol treatment, AA attendance, and/or alcohol program completion.

Prior drunk driving offenses or a history of other alcohol-related offenses may be relied upon to deny reinstatement, on the grounds that the defendant may have an alcohol problem which he or she has not brought under control. 

A decision to deny reinstatement of a license which was suspended due to a chemical test or breathalyzer refusal, after the defendant had been acquitted, can be appealed to Superior Court pursuant to G.L. c. 249 § 4. If the District Court’s decision was erroneous, as a matter of law, a superior court judge has the power to overrule the district court judge and order that the license be reinstated. Adverse Superior Court decisions in license reinstatement cases can be appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County and such appeals may be transferred to a single justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court.