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The Effect of a Board of Appeal Order

Massachusetts Registry News

Persons appealing license suspensions before the Board of Appeal are sometimes confused regarding the Board’s authority and the effect of the Board’s reversal of a decision of the Mass. RMV. Pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 28, the Division of Insurance Board of Appeal has the legal authority to reverse, modify, or annul any decision of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles.

When the Registry reverses or annuls a decision of the Registrar, it generally doesn’t give the Appellant relief from any testing, licensing, or reinstatement requirements. In almost all of the cases coming before it, the Board only affords relief on the license suspension, in the form of a full reinstatement or hardship license. The driver must still comply with all Registry reinstatement requirements such as taking a written test, road test, paying reinstatement fees, and paying any past due fines, citations, unpaid tickets, fast lane violations, excise tax, and any other outstanding financial obligation.

In cases involving JOL violations, for example, a favorable decision from the Board does not mean that the violation did not occur or that it will not appear on the driver’s record and be counted for insurance purposes, or towards suspensions for 7 surchargeable events or habitual traffic offender violations. Stated differently, winning at the Board of Appeal doesn’t erase a violation from a driver’s record. It will only give the driver relief on the administrative license suspension and nothing else.

In order to get a dismissal, not responsible, or not guilty finding regarding a traffic or criminal violation, the offense must be appealed to the District Court having jurisdiction over the location where the violation occurred. Once the court rules on the violation, you cannot contest responsibility by appealing to the RMV Board of Appeal. All that the Board can do is to afford relief on the license suspension penalty triggered by the violation. You cannot re-litigate whether or not you were guilty of the crime. Guilty or responsibility is determined by the court system and not the Board of Appeal.

When it comes to automobile accident surcharges, however, the Board does have the authority and reasonability to make determinations regarding fault. In those accident surcharge appeals, unlike hardship license appeals, a favorable findings from the Board will result in the removal of the surcharge from your driving record and a credit for any monies paid as a result of the surcharge. These surcharge hearings are conducted by a single hearings officer and not the three actual Board members, who primarily hear suspension and hardship license hearings. 

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