Under the Massachusetts Immediate Threat Law, the RMV can suspend a driver’s license or Mass. motor vehicle registration whenever the license or registration holder has “committed a violation of the motor vehicle laws of a nature which would give the registrar reason to believe that continuing operation by such holder is and will be so seriously improper as to constitute an immediate threat to the public safety.”
Due to the immediate nature of the treat to public safety, the Registry is not legally required to hold a hearing prior to imposing the suspension. Instead, the driver whose license or registration is suspended under the Immediate Threat Law has a right to have a hearing at the Registry of Motor Vehicles within 30 days of the indefinite immediate threat suspension.
These immediate threat suspensions usually result from immediate threat reports filed by police officers. In most cases, there is an incident of dangerous driving which may or may not have involved a car accident. The police officer forms an opinion that the driver should be promptly taken off the road until his or her case can be evaluated by the Driver Control Unit of the Registry of Motor Vehicles. As part of the RMV hearing process, the hearings officer will review the individual’s driving record and likely his or her criminal record. These documents may show a pattern of dangerous driving behavior or other previous immediate threat suspensions. Under the law, in order for an immediate threat suspension to be legal, it must be based on a motor vehicle law violation. Driving behavior which does not violate the law is insufficient to trigger the suspension. These cases usually involve two RMV hearings. At the first hearing, a copy of the immediate threat complaint is obtained and some initial discussions and negotiations with the Registry Hearings Officer takes place. At the second hearing, the client seeks the hearings officer’s approval for license reinstatement. Conditions may include taking and passing a written exam, road test, or successfully completing a driver retraining program, such as the National Safety Council (NSC) Course. Reinstatements are not automatic and the Registry is afforded wide latitude and discretion in this area. Immediate threat suspensions carry a mandatory $500.00 license reinstatement fee.
Many clients ask how long an immediate threat suspension will last. This is a discretionary suspension and unlike mandatory suspensions for offenses such as DUI, habitual traffic offender, leaving the scene of an accident, speeding, false license, reckless driving, or operating so as to endanger, there is no end date. Termination of the suspension and reinstatement of the license or registration is up to the Registry Hearings Officer.
If the incident which triggered the indefinite immediate threat suspension or license revocation resulted in the issuance of a citation or criminal charges, the Registry generally will not rule on a license reinstatement unless and until the criminal or civil automobile law violation case is concluded. Often, in addition to filing an immediate threat complaint, a police officer may issue a citation for speeding, operating so as to endanger, marked lanes violation, or other moving violations. Convictions or responsible findings for these violations may trigger additional separate suspensions.
Drivers who are facing immediate threat license suspensions should be represented by a skilled and experienced RMV lawyer. This is a specialized area of law and lawyers who are not familiar with the immediate threat suspension and reinstatement process may have some difficulties in navigating the system. If the Mass. RMV has indefinitely suspended or revoked your driver’s license, contact a license suspension lawyer such as Attorney Brian E. Simoneau for a free consultation and case review.