I get lots of inquiries from people who made the mistake of representing themselves at the Board of Appeal. They tried to get hardship licenses and were denied by the Board. Desperate to get back on the road, they often contact me to appeal their suspensions to superior court. This post will briefly summarize the superior court hardship license appeal process. 

Drivers who are denied a hardship license by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles have the right to appeal the denial to the Mass. RMV Board of Appeal. The Board has the legal authority to overrule the Registry’s hardship license denial. Pursuant to the Massachusetts Administrative Procedures Law, those who lose their Board of Appeal hearings and are denied hardship licensing have the right to appeal to superior court.

Superior court appeals of Board decisions must be filed within 30 days of receipt of the Board’s decision. This 30 day requirement cannot be waived and the superior court has no power to hear and decide a late appeal. No new evidence is heard at the superior court level. Instead, the judge will review the information that was before the Board of Appeal. For this reason, it is absolutely critical to put the right facts and circumstances on the record. If you’re serious about getting a hardship license, you should hire a lawyer who routinely practices before the RMV Board of Appeal.

Review of a hardship license denial at the superior court level is confined to legal issues. The superior court judge will almost always defer to the Board of Appeal. To succeed in superior court, the hardship license appellant must show that the Board made a legal error or that its decision was not supported by substantial evidence. For all of intents and purposes, it is extremely difficult to win a hardship license appeal in superior court. Judges will almost always defer to the Board’s judgment and expertise. It is, therefore, very important to “fight to win” at the Board of Appeal level. This hearing is, usually, the last opportunity to present evidence and getting a license from the Board usually represents the best chance of success.

There are other cases where there are suspension-related legal issues to be decided. In these cases, which involve the interpretation of DUI and Massachusetts license suspension laws, superior court judges are generally more likely to reverse the Board’s decision.