In order to convict a driver of operating after suspension or driving on a revoked license, the prosecution must prove that the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles sent the defendant notice that his or her license was suspended or revoked. Specifically, G.L. c. 90 § 22(d) requires that the RMV send written notice to the “last address as appearing on the registrar’s records” or to the driver’s “last and usual place of abode.” This law makes sense, because it would be unfair to penalize someone for operating after suspension if the driver was no aware that his or her license was suspended or revoked.
It is important to notify the Registry if you move or change your address. If you do not receive notice because you failed to notify the Registry of your new address, you will have difficulty using “lack of notice” as a defense in a suspended license case. Also, failure to notify the Registry of a change of address is a civil infraction, for which you could be issued a citation or ticket.
Even if the Registry can demonstrate that notice was sent in accordance with the law, it may be possible to convince the court that you did not receive the suspension notice. Mail gets lost all of the time and not every piece of mail gets to the addressee. Massachusetts suspension and revocation notices are not sent by registered or certified mail and it is plausible that the letter never reached the intended recipient. Lack of notice has been a viable defense in Massachusetts suspended license cases and it should be considered, even where the Registry produces a copy of a suspension letter which was allegedly sent to the defendant. This is especially true in cases where a person moves and notifies the Registry within the required time period, but before the suspension or revocation letter was mailed. Lack of notice is only one of many defenses in a suspended license case.
If you have been charged with operating after suspension, contact Attorney Paul B. Watkins for more information and a free consultation.