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Superior Court Appeals Present Slim Chances of Success

Massachusetts Registry News

The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently affirmed that the Mass. Board of Appeal has considerable power and discretion when deciding whether or not to grant a hardship license. The Mass. Appeals Court recently upheld the Board’s decision to deny hardship relief to a candidate who had a substantial driving record and made the mistake of representing himself before the Board and the Court.

The Board’s decision to deny a hardship license was based on an extensive record of motor vehicle violations, which included multiple citations for driving without insurance, and numerous traffic tickets for operating on a suspended license. The Board also considered that the Appellant had been previously given a hardship license and he re-offended. I should note that the Board takes a very dim view of anyone who commits additional violations while on a hardship license. The Board believes that someone who is granted a hardship license, which is considered “extraordinary relief” should be on his or her “best behavior.”

The Board has records of all of the cases which it hears and it also is provided with a detailed registry record which shows the issuance of previous hardship licenses. Anyone who comes before the Board being granted a Massachusetts hardship license, either by the Mass RMV or Board of Appeal should be mindful of this.

The Board’s decision to grant or deny reinstatement, or a request for a hardship license, is given significant deference and on review. The Court focuses on whether the Board’s decision was unsupported by substantial evidence, or constituted an abuse of discretion. This is very difficult to prove on appeal. Therefore, if you are trying to get a Mass. Hardship license, your best chance of success is to try to win at the Registry or Board of Appeal level. I am aware of no reported decision where any court overruled the Board’s exercise of discretion on the question of whether or not to grant a hardship license. Again, the best way to get a hardship license is to win at the Registry or Board of Appeal hearing. Once denied relief, it is unlikely that a superior court judge will reverse the Board’s discretionary decision. To summarize, the chances of reversing a Massachusetts hardship license denial in Superior Court are slim to none.

There has been no reported decision of a Superior Court Judge reversing the Board of Appeal’s refusal to grant a hardship license. The Board has complete discretion regarding this issue and so long as that discretion is not abused, the Board’s decision is likely final.

Although hardship license appeals are usually losers in Superior Court, it is often possible to win cases where the Board of Appeal and/or the Mass. RMV have made errors of law. I have an excellent track record of success in this area. If the Registry and/or the RMV Board of Appeal has misapplied the law or made a legal error, it is often possible to win.

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