The Massachusetts Immediate Threat Law, G.L. c. 90 § 22(a), gives the Registry of Motor Vehicles broad power to suspend a driver’s license for an indefinite period as a non-punitive, remedial measure to protect the public from dangerous drivers. In order to impose an indefinite immediate threat revocation, the Driver Control Unit of the Registry must find that the driver has “committed a violation of the motor vehicle laws of a nature which would give the registrar reason to believe that continuing operation by such holder is and will be so seriously improper as to constitute an immediate threat to the public safety.”
Immediate threat revocations are “indefinite” in length, meaning that there is no specific amount of time for the loss of license. Instead, the Massachusetts immediate threat law allows the Registry to take a drivers’ license for an undetermined period of time, as a means to protect the public from an alleged dangerous driver.
These indefinite immediate threat license revocations can be appealed to the Registry and, if necessary, the Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liability Policies and Bonds. The Board of Appeal, is a distinct state agency from the Registrar. The Board of Appeal may affirm, modify, or annul any action by the Registrar. Often times criminal charges such as operating under the influence, negligent operation, driving to endanger, speeding, racing, or other violations are associated with immediate threat revocations. However, receiving a not guilty verdict in a related criminal case or a dismissal of the charges does not vacate the immediate threat license suspension. These license suspensions are civil and remedial in nature, not punitive, and thus, there is no “double jeopardy” or other bar to imposing these suspensions.
A good lawyer who is intimately familiar with the Registry’s immediate threat revocation and reinstatement procedures can be invaluable when it comes to getting your license restored as soon as possible. There are various legal maneuvers which can be employed to deal with an immediate threat suspension, at both the RMV and Board of Appeal levels. In some cases, it may be possible to obtain a preliminary injunction or court order reinstating your license from Superior Court.
Because no two immediate threat cases are the same, the best course of action will depend on the facts and circumstances of the particular case. All immediate threat suspensions must be supported by a police report, or other similar document, which is supposed to contain sufficient information to justify the immediate revocation of a driver’s license. A review of these documents by competent legal counsel is the first step towards getting your license reinstated.