The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has recently ruled that a certified copy of a letter from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, which was introduced in an operating after suspension trial, to prove that the defendant was notified of his license suspension was admitted into evidence in violation of the defendant’s right to confront his accusers, which is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.
In order to convict someone of operating after suspension in Massachusetts, the prosecution must prove, among other things, that the Registry notified the defendant that his license was suspended or revoked. The prosecution usually proves this with a certified copy of the suspension letter from the Registrar to the driver.
In the case of Commonwealth v. Joseph Lee, the Mass. SJC ruled that the prosecution could not introduce the suspension letter without producing an employee from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles to lay a proper foundation for the suspension letter’s introduction.
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution gives those accused of crimes the right to confront their accusers. In this case, the defendant’s Constitutional right was violated because the prosecution failed to produce a live witness for the defendant to confront regarding the suspension letter. Therefore, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the driver’s rights were violated and the Court reversed his conviction for operating after suspension, which carried a mandatory jail sentence because his license was suspended for DUI.
This case demonstrates the importance of having a good lawyer represent you in the event that you are charged with the crime of operating after suspension in Massachusetts.