Resolve your Criminal Case Before going to the Board of Appeal

rightsIf MassDOT has taken action against your Massachusetts Driver’s License or right to operate in Massachusetts, G.L. c. 90 § 28 gives you the right to seek review of the Registry’s decision by taking your case before a 3 member Board of Appeal. This Board, which is an agency of the Division of Insurance, has the legal authority to reverse any decision of the Mass RMV. This means that the Board has the power to order the Registry to give you your driver’s license back in full or to grant you a hardship license, which allows you to legally drive for 12 hours each day if your license has been suspended or revoked.

You cannot get a license from the Board of Appeal without personally attending a Board of Appeal hearing. The purpose of this hearing is to give the Board information so that its members can decide whether to grant you a hardship license or to overturn your suspension.

In some cases, you may have pending criminal charges for operating after suspension, reckless driving, negligent operation, or operating under the influence. If you have pending charges, you should not apply for a hearing with the Appeals Board. Instead, you should wait until your criminal case is resolved. In most cases, the Board will refuse to hear your suspension appeal case until the criminal matter is concluded. This is because if you are convicted, you will have a new license suspension and any order made by the Board will be null and void.

There is another important reason for waiting to appeal your suspension, as I have explained below.

The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution gives you the right to remain silent and the ability to refuse to testify against yourself. Article 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights give you the same protection. At your appeal hearing, you will be questioned regarding the contents of your criminal and driving records, which will reflect any pending cases as well as your history of violations, whether or not they resulted in a conviction. If you invoke your 5th Amendment or Article 12 Rights against self incrimination, it is unlikely the appeal will be resolved in your favor. If you testify , you will likely be providing evidence which could hurt your chances of success in the criminal case.

All testimony at the Board of Appeal is sworn, which means that it is given under the penalties and pains of perjury. Furthermore, all testimony is electronically recorded and preserved.  Nothing would prevent the Board from sharing this information with prosecutors or the District Attorney’s Office from issuing a subpoena for your testimony. This sworn testimony could be used against you in the criminal case. Therefore, if you have pending criminal charges, the best thing to do is to wait until those charges are fully resolved through the court system before seeking a hardship license or early reinstatement of your driver’s license. If you have any questions regarding this, you should speak with a lawyer.