The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will soon rule on the constitutionality of the law which allows district court judges, instead of the Mass. RMV, to decide if a license which was suspended because of a breathalyzer refusal should be reinstated if the defendant is found not guilty.
Dennis Bauer, who was found not guilty of DUI 4th offense, is challenging Ayer District Court Judge David W. Cunis’ decision that his license should not be returned because returning Bauer’s license would endanger public safety. In his appeal, Bauer is claiming that the law which allows judges instead of the Mass. RMV to decide on license reinstatements in breathalyzer refusal cases violates the separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches of Massachusetts government.
Bauer’s license was revoked for lifetime under the Massachusetts breathalyzer refusal law, which provides for lifetime license revocations for those who have three or more previous convictions and refuse the breathalyzer. The license suspension is not automatically vacated, even if the DUI offender is found not guilty at trial. Instead, a hearing is held before the district court, where there is a presumption that the license should be restored. The prosecution can overcome this presumption by demonstrating that restoring the license would jeopardize public safety.
Bauer’s appeal challenges this hearing process on the grounds that only Registry and not the courts have the constitutional authority to decide, in the first instance, matters related to license suspensions.
More information will be posted regarding this breathalyzer refusal suspension case as it develops.