In cases where a person is charged with the crime of operating after suspension, which sometimes now carries a minimum mandatory jail sentence, depending on the suspension reason, the prosecution can use Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles records to prove its case. However, in order to do so, the prosecution must lay a proper foundation. Absent a sufficient explanation of the Registry records, which can be technical in nature, the defendant may be entitled to a not guilty verdict.
In order to prove unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, the prosecuting attorney must prove each essential element of the offense, including that the defendant did not hold a valid driver’s license, or his or her valid license has been suspended or revoked by the registrar. The prosecuting lawyer’s evidence regarding the lack of a valid license usually consists of a Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (“RMV”) report, containing a certificate of the defendant’s driving history, license inquiry information, and notice of license reinstatement procedures.
Although RMV certificates commonly qualify as admissible pursuant to the business record exception and their admission is deemed not to violate the confrontation clause, the records must be adequately explained and introduced after a proper foundation is laid.
Usually, prosecutors are allowed to introduce the certified Registry documents and then “connect the dots” by explaining their significance, through witness testimony. The codes and abbreviations which the Registry uses may be outside of the understanding of a reasonable juror. In such cases, without interpretative testimony, a not guilty verdict may be achieved.