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Chemical Test Refusal Suspensions in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, the Registry of Motor Vehicles imposes chemical test refusal suspensions independently of DUI suspensions. Chemical test refusal suspensions are administrative in nature and they are imposed automatically, under the implied consent law, whenever someone who is arrested for operating under the influence of liquor (OUI) refuses to take a breath or blood test.

Breathalyzer refusal suspensions carry a $500.00 reinstatement fee and they are not automatically terminated if the driver is acquitted of the OUI charge or if the drunk driving charge is dismissed. Instead, the DUI defendant who prevails in court by getting a not guilty verdict or a dismissal of the operating under the influence charge is entitled to file a motion with the district court, seeking a court order to reinstate his or her driver’s license.

The dismissal or not guilty alone will not automatically terminate the chemical test refusal suspension. Instead, a judge must determine that reinstatement of the license and returning the defendant to the roadways will not likely endanger public safety. The motion for return of a license must be heard by the judge who presided over the OUI trial in the District Court which has jurisdiction over the offense location. The motion must be filed immediately after the entry of the NG verdict or the dismissal.

At license restoration hearings, there is a presumption that the license should be returned. The District Attorney’s Office will have the opportunity to oppose reinstatement by showing that returning the driver’s license would jeopardize public safety. It is very important to be well prepared for these hearings and not to rush into them. A good lawyer will have prepared evidence and arguments to show how a license reinstatement would not risk public safety. With CTR license suspensions ranging from 6 months to life, these suspension hearings can be very important.

Court orders for reinstatement of driver’s licenses issued under G.L. c. 90, § 24(1)(f)(1) must be brought to a Registry hearings officer for entry into the Registry’s computer. These court orders are not automatically transmitted to the Registry and a hearing is required to have them entered into the RMV computer. The $500 reinstatement fee must be paid to the Registry before the driver’s license is reactivated.

Because the driver’s license was suspended due to a chemical test refusal and not a drunk driving conviction, there should be no ignition interlock requirement associated with a license reinstatement pursuant to a court order after a favorable outcome in a Massachusetts DUI case.

The Registry will only reinstate a driver’s Class D Passenger Car license. If the driver held a Commercial Driver’s License, the Registry will automatically downgrade it to a Class D license. The Registry is of the opinion that a court order cannot reinstate a CDL that was suspended for a breathalyzer refusal. However, I have successfully appealed this issue and received CDL reinstatements by going before the Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance.