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Use of Out of State DUI Convictions Upheld

Massachusetts Registry News

In the case of Commonwealth v. Lee, the Massachusetts Appeals Court recently upheld the use of an out of state DUI conviction to convict a Massachusetts resident and license holder of OUI 2nd offense. The Appeals Court also upheld the introduction of the driver’s New Hampshire DMV and Mass. Registry of Motor Vehicles driving records to prove that when he was arrested, Joseph A. Lee was driving a motor vehicle with a suspended license, in violation of G.L. c. 90, § 23. At Lee’s drunk driving and operating after suspension trial, his lawyer never objected to the use of Registry and DMV records to prove that the Registry notified Lee that his license was suspended, as required by law. Failing to raise this objection at the time of trial was probably a mistake, because the highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that the prosecution cannot introduce RMV records to prove notice of suspension without accompanying testimony which is subject to cross-examination. In dismissing the appeal regarding the use of Lee’s Registry record, the Appeals Court ruled that because Lee’s lawyer did not object to the introduction of the Registry records to prove that MassDOT provided him with notice of the suspension, Lee waived the objection and he was prohibited from raising it for the first time on appeal. This shows how important it is to be represented by a good lawyer who understandings Massachusetts RMV law.

Lee also claimed that his previous New Hampshire drunk driving conviction could not have been relied upon to impose a 2 year DUI license suspension which the Registry imposes upon anyone convicted of DUI with a prior conviction or alcohol program assignment, in accordance with the Massachusetts DUI law, G.L. c. 90 Section 24. In dismissing this claim, the Appeals Court noted that Lee should have challenged the RMV’s use of the previous New Hampshire conviction by appealing to the Division of Insurance Board of Appeal and then, if necessary, to Superior Court in accordance with the Massachusetts Administrative Procedures Act, G.L. c. 30A, § 14. Thus, by not appealing as required by law, Lee waived his right to challenge the 2 year OUI 2rd offense license suspension. Therefore, as a 2nd offender, Lee will be required to abide by the ignition interlock requirements of Melanie’s Law during the entire term of any hardship license and for 2 years after getting his hardship hours removed.

Incidentally, the Appeals Court observed that the RMV is legally entitled to treat out of state drunk driving convictions as if they had occurred in Massachusetts, for the purpose of license suspensions and reinstatements.

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