Not All Drug or Alcohol Programs are Equal

alcohol_programIn Massachusetts DUI cases, one of the key parts of your hardship license hearing before the Board of Appeal or Registry is a review of the drug or alcohol treatment program which you have most recently completed. Not all programs are equal and the Board of Appeal has become very adept at discerning what is a legitimate and substantive alcohol program and what is not.

Some hardship license candidates attempt to satisfy the program requirement with on-line or “distance learning”  programs.  The Board of Appeal hears thousands of cases each year and the Board members are aware of the differences between these programs which you basically take over the internet and then print your certificate versus the more substantive programs which require your physical attendance and participation.

Going before the Board of Appeal with a “correspondence school” or “on-line alcohol program” when completion of an actual “in-person” program is required can result in a hardship license denial, which would force you to serve the balance of your revocation or license suspension.

Not all substance abuse programs are equal and not having a substantive alcohol or drug program may hurt your chances of success, especially if you are a repeat offender. You should consult with a lawyer prior to appearing before the Board of Appeal to ensure that you have what it takes to convince the Board to grant you a hardship license or reinstatement of your driving privileges.

The Probation Department of your District Court can be a valuable resource when it comes to finding an alcohol or drug treatment program.  You can also find programs on-line and through Alcoholics Anonymous Groups. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health also maintains a list of approved programs and treatment providers.

Finally, if you are legally domiciled out of state, or if you are a full-time student who resides in another state, the Registry of Motor Vehicles will accept proof of program completion from your home state, even if the DUI offenses occurred here in Massachusetts. However, if you are not a Massachusetts resident, you cannot get a Massachusetts Driver’s License and you must go before the Appeals Board instead of the Registry to be considered for hardship relief. If you have to appear before the Board, you should retain a lawyer.

Out of State DUI Q&A

I need help with reinstating my Mass driver’s license. I have to see a RMV hearing officer, Wilmington is the closest Registry. I am 39 years old and I have never been in trouble before.

I got arrested 2 times in 2 weeks for DUI (I don’t drink by the way). The first one happened in CT — which ended in “Alternate finding” i.e. take a long expensive drug/alcohol class and probation for one year. My lawyer kept “continuing” the case so the second DUI arrest case in Rhode Island finished way before the Connecticut judge assigned probation.  The RI DUI was dropped and has been expunged from my record. I refused the breathalyzer after I was under arrest. I would have easily passed the breathalyzer, but since I felt wrongly arrested in both incidents and since this whole experience was foreign to me, I felt I should contact a lawyer before cooperating anymore. I was found responsible for both refusals. My suspensions are up and MA has sent me letters asking me to see the hearing officer with my papers from RI and CT- the states’ reinstatements and my driving records. I have my court documents as well. I couldn’t tell by the MA letter if they needed those as well.

Here’s the question: Do I go to hearing officer with both sets (CT and RI) of documents or deal with them one at a time? The Rhode Island case finished first so I’ll be receiving that paperwork this week. I’ll be receiving the Connecticut documents the week of November 13th. Thank you in advance for any light you could shed!

Answer: If you hold a Massachusetts Drivers License or live in Massachusetts, and you are convicted of an out of state DUI offense, the Registry of Motor Vehicles will suspend your license unless and until your right to operate is restored in the state where the offense occurred. Also, the Registry will impose an additional suspension which is triggered by being a Mass. resident or license holder and being convicted of an out of state DUI. You need to bring “proof of findings” to the Registry so that the CT offense can be added to your Massachusetts record. Once this happens, the RMV will impose an automatic 1 year DUI 1st offense license suspension. In some cases, this suspension can be reduced.