How to Win Your RMV Refusal Hearing

While retaining a RMV attorney is usually the best way to increase your chances of winning your breath test refusal hearing, there is no reason you cannot do it yourself with a little preparation. We have compiled key information which you can use to challenge your breathalyzer refusal suspension.

4 Steps to Winning Your Refusal Hearing

There are four steps you must follow to win your refusal hearing.

  1. Spend an hour or two reviewing the law and procedures applicable to all hearings. Pay particular attention to the material dealing with the statutory requirements and elements of a successful chemical test refusal appeal, as they will help you develop and establish the record necessary to succeed.
  2. Master the four elements the RMV needs to prove at the refusal hearing to uphold the suspension of your license so you can begin to focus on the defenses that can actually win the case for you.
  3. Review the defenses typically available to a refusal hearing and identify the ones you can use based on the facts of your own case.
  4. Prepare a written plan of attack so that your case is organized, you won’t forget anything, and you can stay calm and focused no matter what happens at the hearing. It is imperative that you put the helpful facts on the record at the Registry hearing, because later hearings, such as the District Court Appeal, are limited to the record developed at the RMV.

Breathalyzer test refusal

If despite your best efforts the hearing officer upholds the suspension of your license for 6 months up to life, you will have hopefully maximized your chances of getting the adverse decision overturned at the District or Superior Court.

Understand the Basics of all RMV Hearings

Many of the issues you will encounter in an admin per se hearing are common to all RMV hearings.

For example, every RMV hearing is governed by specific regulations. You should view this hearing as your opportunity to tell your “side of the story” and to present evidence that is favorable to your case. You are allowed to submit sworn affidavits and documentary evidence.

Know the Elements of a Breath Test Refusal Hearing

At a refusal hearing, the RMV must prove four things to suspend your license:

  1. That the officer had reason to believe you were DUI;
  2. That you were lawfully arrested for DUI; and
  3. That you were advised if you refused to complete a chemical test that your license would be suspended or revoked for 6 months up to life; and
  4. That you refused or failed to complete a chemical test.

The first two elements of a refusal case really come down to the same issue: were you arrested on reasonable grounds?  The third element focuses on the way the officer advised you of the consequences of refusing (called the “admonishment”), and is a frequent topic of appeals actions.

Your Actual Refusal

The final element is your actual refusal, but note that it is more broadly worded to include “failure to complete.” That language puts the burden on the motorist to complete the test – you don’t actually have to refuse to be considered as having refused for suspension purposes. Also, refusals must be properly witnessed and documented.

If the hearing officer fails to address these elements (or if you refute any of them when it’s your turn to present your case), the RMV cannot legally suspend your license. Remember that the police have the burden of proving these elements; you do not have to disprove them. Sometimes,  just objecting to the evidence may prevent the RMV from relying on it to rule against you. The formal rules of evidence do not apply to refusal hearings. However, the evidence must have some level of reliability to be introduced and it can be challenged in some situations.

Why You Need A Lawyer For RMV Hearings

Massachusetts drivers facing an OUI offense and those who have been convicted of a DUI or charged with other driving offenses will need to apply to the Registry of Motor Vehicles for License Reinstatement and undergo the hearings process, this requirement applies whether the driver has served the full suspension or he is seeking early reinstatement. RMV hearings are sometimes complex and follow specific administrative rules and laws. Drivers are far more likely to have these hearings go their way when they are well-represented by a MA RMV attorney who understands these procedures and how the law can be applied to a specific hearing.

Contesting A Suspension

When your driver’s license is suspended, or “revoked,” there are very specific procedures and rules that must be followed under the law in order for the suspension to be legitimate. However, the legitimacy of most suspensions is not automatically a question of law. This means that your suspension may need to be contested under the scrutiny of a trained RMV lawyer who will advocate for you and attempt to show the hearings officer why the suspension is not warranted under Massachusetts law.

The law also provides each person with the right to appeal any RMV hearing decision. If the hearings officer does not decide in your favor, you and your attorney will have 10 days to file an appeal with the Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liability & Bonds. This appeal is procedurally similar to a civil action, and rulings by the Board can be further appealed to a superior court. The 10 day hearing requirement is not followed and the Board will hear cases filed outside of the 10 day appeal window.

However, if you are suspended for a Chemical Test Refusal (CTR) for an underlying DUI arrest, you will have to fight, and win your case either at the initial RMV hearing in Boston, or in the court of jurisdiction in order to get your driving privileges reinstated. The Board of Appeal will not hear breathalyzer refusal appeals and the appeal paperwork clearly announces this fact.

**You have only 15 days from the DUI date of arrest to apply for an RMV suspension hearing for CTR. **

Under the current MA law, no hardship, limited or restricted driving privilege is permitted after a CTR violation, except in first offender or second chance first offender DUI cases. You either fight your case to win your full license back, or you will have to serve the full revocation period without any driving at all, as the law currently stands in Massachusetts.

Cases that we often represent before the Board of Appeals include Habitual Traffic Offender suspensions, Out-of-State revocations, and OUI and CTR revocations. Most drug offense license suspensions were eliminated by the enactment of legislation.

RMV Hearings to Get Your License Back After a DUI

There are many RMV hearings you can go through after being charged with driving under the influence. They include:

Each of these works differently, but they all share one important point: Drivers are statistically much more likely to have hearings go their way when represented by an OUI attorney who is highly experienced in RMV hearings.

As an example, if you are contesting a suspension resulting from a 3rd DUI offense, your OUI attorney may be able to present favorable evidence during a reinstatement hearing at the Registry. However, your DUI lawyer might not be familiar with the nuances of Registry hearing procedures and you may be better served by someone who understands how the RMV operates when it comes to suspension and revocation appeals and license reinstatements, which can be confusing to those who do not handle these matters on a regular basis.