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.

How the RMV Calculates License Suspensions

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles determines the length of driver’s license suspensions based on the customer’s RMV record and the law. If, for example, an individual has 3 DUI offenses and the prosecutor was only able to prove one prior offense, the court would treat that person as a second offender while the Registry would treat the person as a third offender and impose an eight-year OUI third offense revocation. The standard of proof at the Registry is the preponderance of the evidence and information contained in driving records is considered prima facie evidence for Registry actions such as suspensions.

In a DUI trial, the Commonwealth is required to prove prior offenses “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that the prosecution must prove that the criminal defendant was previously convicted or assigned to a drug or alcohol education program and that the person named in the prior conviction records and the defendant currently on trial are the same person. If the prosecution is unable to prove these facts, the prior offense cannot be counted against the defendant by the court. However, if the prior convictions or program assignments appear on the defendant’s Registry record, the Mass. RMV is legally required to count them when calculating the length of an operating under the influence suspension and when determining hardship license eligibility.

Some people say that the “Registry can do whatever it wants.” This is absolutely not true in this case. Instead, the Registry is guided by the law and the contents of a person’s driving record. The RMV simply applies the law to the convictions and alcohol program assignments appearing on a person’s Registry record; this determines the suspension length. A more accurate statement would be that the Registry is not bound by the sentence imposed by the trial court when it is contrary to the official records maintained by the Registrar.

In Massachusetts, drunk driving cases are often “plea bargained” so that the court treats and sentences a third offender as a second offender. This outcome might allow the defendant to avoid incarceration and other serious consequences and penalties. However, it will not prevent the Registry from imposing an 8-year third offense OUI license revocation and a five (5) year breathalyzer refusal suspension if the defendant refused the breath test when he or she was arrested.

In some cases, for example, the customer’s driving record might list out of state DUI offenses which do not appear in Massachusetts court or probation records. It is completely permissible for the Registry to count these offenses when determining the length of a DWI suspension or when determining if a driver is a habitual traffic offender.

I continue to be amazed by the number of lawyers who do not understand how the Registry calculates license suspensions in Massachusetts, which are determined by the law and the contents of the defendant’s Registry of Motor Vehicles record. This formula is also used to determine whether or not a person is ignition interlock required.

Transportation Network Driver Certificates

Having too many violations on your record or being convicted of DUI or operating after suspension or revocation of your driver’s license can have serious and long-lasting consequences in Massachusetts, especially if you are a professional driver or you drive for Uber or Lyft. These “ride sharing” and transportation network companies are now legally required to conduct background checks on their drivers and certain offenses will prevent the issuance of a background check certificate, which is required as a condition of employment as a Uber, Lyft, or other TNC driver. It is illegal to drive for a TNC in Massachusetts without a valid transportation network driver certificate and this requires passing a criminal and driving record check. background investigation.

For example, if you have two or more DUI, leaving the scene, or related convictions, including cases that were continued without a finding, you will be permanently banned from driving for a transportation network company in Massachusetts.

Single convictions or CWOFs for reckless driving, negligent operation, operating so as to endanger, use of a motor vehicle without authority, and making a false statement to the RMV will also operate as disqualifiers, for a period of seven years. A Habitual Traffic Offender revocation operates as a 7 year disqualifier.

Having your driver’s license suspended or revoked for reasons related to the operation of a motor vehicle will disqualify you from driving for Uber and Lyft for a period of 7 years.

You cannot drive for a TNC such as  Uber or Lyft if you have an ignition interlock device installed in your motor vehicle.

Convictions, including CWOFs, for certain sex offenses, violent crimes, fraud, exploitation offenses, and robbery will result in permanent disqualification. Being a registered sex offender will prevent an individual from driving for a TNC in Massachusetts, as will active arrest warrants, open cases, and a lack of experience as a licensed driver in Massachusetts.

You will be denied a transportation network driver certificate if your driving record includes more than 4 traffic violations or any major traffic violation, as defined by the division of insurance, in the 3 year period immediately preceding your record check.

Driving and criminal record checks are required for drivers at least twice per year. This means that you are at risk of losing your certificate based on your driving and criminal record, even if you passed an initial check.

If you have appeared before the Board of Appeal and obtained a hardship license or early reinstatement of your full license, that does not mean that the offense which triggered the suspension cannot be used against you or that the license suspension does not disqualify you from being issued a transportation network driver certificate.

MADD to hold Rally at Statehouse

Tomorrow at 10:00 AM, Mothers Against Drunk Driving will be holding a rally and ignition interlock demonstration on the steps of the Massachusetts Statehouse. The purpose of this event is to demonstrate support for Senate Bill 2445 which will eliminate all DUI hardship license waiting periods and allow repeat offenders to immediately seek license reinstatements. The Bill eliminates all DUI statutory minimum suspension periods, regardless of the number of drunk driving convictions an offender has. It allows the Registry to issue ignition interlock restricted licenses to all drunk drivers, regardless of the number of prior convictions and/or chemical test refusals.

If enacted, this bill will allow those whose licenses have been revoked for life due to breathalyzer refusals to be considered for the immediate issuance of full time driver’s license. Currently repeat offenders are prohibited from being issued a driver’s license while breathalyzer refusal suspensions are in effect. This proposed legislation will allow all those who have refused a breath test, regardless of the person’s driving record, to be immediately considered for the issuance of an ignition interlock restricted license, with no minimum mandatory waiting period.

Senate Bill 2445 will allow those who have been refused licenses by the Registry of Motor Vehicles or Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance to be re-considered for licensure, without having to serve any additional suspension time.

This legislation will allow repeat DUI offenders to satisfy the Registry’s alcohol education program requirement by simply enrolling in the 24D 1st offender program. Repeat drunk drivers will no longer be required to complete the 14 day in-patient residential program in Tewksbury or a 90 day in-patient alcohol program. Instead, if the new law passes, the first offender out-patient program will be acceptable, no matter how many DUI convictions the offender has on his or her record.

Fatal Accident Preliminary Revocations

FAPWhenever a person is involved in a fatal motor car accident, the investigating police department is required to promptly notify the Driver Control Unit of the Registry of Motor Vehicles. When the Registry receives this “fatal accident preliminary” notification, after a review of the facts and circumstances, pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 29, the RMV has the right to summarily and indefinitely revoke your Mass. Driver’s license. This revocation occurs immediately without any advance notice. In these cases, MassDOT usually faxes the revocation letter to your hometown police department and requests that a police officer hand-deliver the letter to you at your home address. A copy of the indefinite revocation letter is also mailed to current address on file with the Registry.

Under the law, unless an initial investigation shows that the driver may not have caused the accident, the Registry is required to indefinitely revoke the driver’s license. Anyone who has his or her license revoked under the fatal accident preliminary law, has the legal right to a hearing before a Registry Hearings Officer on the question of whether or not the driver who lost his license was at fault in the accident. The driver must be afforded an adequate opportunity to demonstrate that the accident occurred “without serious fault” on his part. However, this opportunity is provided after the revocation notice is issued and the driver’s license is indefinitely revoked. The best location for a Fatal Accident Preliminary hearing is the Driver Control Unit of the Registry of Motor Vehicles at 136 Blackstone Street, 3rd Floor, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Because a fatality occurred, the Registry is often hesitant to reinstate the driver’s license of someone involved in this type of accident. Often, the Registry will wait for completion of the accident reconstruction and investigation. This could take many months, a year, or even longer. Absolutely no hardship or Cinderella license is available for this type of suspension. However, if you are unsatisfied with the outcome of the RMV hearing, you have the right to appeal the decision to the Division of Insurance, Board of Appeal.

An experienced lawyer who specializes in these matters may be able to help you get your driver’s license reinstated, without having to wait for the conclusion of the accident reconstruction, investigation, and a decision from the District Attorney’s Office regarding criminal prosecution.

RMV Drug Suspension Removal Procedures

Procedures to be followed by RMV Hearings Officers

94C offenders seeking relief will join the hearings queue as any other customer.

Hearing Officer will correct off (TRE) any 94C suspensions, trafficking not included.  The correction (TRE) will automatically eliminate the reinstatement fee associated with the 94C violation.

Hearing officer will enter uniform file note:

94C legislation – suspension cleared

Hearing officer will advise customer of their individual next steps. Example of next steps:

  • Order duplicate driver’s license
  • Take permit test, road test
  • Advise hardship customers they may receive a 24/7 license by paying duplicate fee
  • Advise customer the 94C reinstatement fee is waived, but they owe $___ for any other expired suspensions
  • Advise customer they have additional active suspensions preventing reinstatement at this time

As is done today, the Hearing Officer will provide print-outs to customer for branch staff on related fees owed and transactions the customer is now eligible to/required to perform

Hearing Officer will direct customers to Green Line if eligible for additional transactions today.

Anyone seeking a shielded driving record– will not be available until October. The legislation requires shielding of all drug offenses (except trafficking), all expired warrants and all expired child support obligations. The law gives the Registry 6 months to implement.

Procedures to be followed by RMV Customer Service Reps.

94C offenders seeking relief will join the hearings queue as any other customer

Customer will have hearing

Customer will return to Green Line and join established queue

Customer will present to CSR with information on any fee owed and their desired transaction

Branch will process according to policy. The only change is that you will NOT collect a 94C reinstatement fee

To allow for uniform data collection and tracking, please enter the following into override log:

94C legislation-suspension fee waived

Quick reminders:

The customer is required to pay a duplicate license fee or renewal fee

The customer is required to pay the permit fee and road test fee

Customers who previously paid a 94C reinstatement fee are NOT eligible for a refund. The legislation does not provide for this.

Customers needing a road test will schedule using the established procedure.

License Reinstatements for MA Drug Offenders

On March 30, 2016, Governor Baker signed into law “An Act Relative to Motor Vehicle License Suspension” making operators with certain prior drug convictions eligible for immediate license reinstatement. For more information on how impacted customers may begin the license reinstatement process, please see the suspensions section of MassRMV.com.  Customers seeking reinstatement must visit a branch and see a hearings officer. In addition, the RMV is preparing to mail individualized letters to certain impacted customers on their specific reinstatement steps and requirements.  All persons who believe they are eligible for relief under this new law should update their address with the RMV immediately.

An Act Relative to Motor Vehicle License Suspensionwas signed by Governor Baker on Wednesday, March 30, 2016. The law allows for the immediate license reinstatement for operators with certain prior drug convictions. Since the late 1980s, the law called for the RMV to impose an automatic license suspension for convictions under Mass General Law Chapter 94C. The new legislation eliminates suspensions for all drug offenses except for trafficking in a controlled substance (except for Marijuana Trafficking). In order to serve the customers who may now be eligible for reinstatement, the RMV intends to mail letters to provide certain impacted individuals with personalized actions steps toward license reinstatement. The steps for license reinstatement will vary depending upon each individual’s record. An individual with any active, non-drug related suspensions may not be eligible for reinstatement. In order to be reinstated, customers must visit an RMV Branch offering suspension hearings and meet with a hearings officer. Hearings are held on a walk-in, first come serve basis in the following locations, please note that service hours vary by location. Locations/Service hours are below.

The legislation waives reinstatement fees only. Customers seeking reinstatement will be required to pay permit and road test fees, if the customer has been suspended for more than two-years. As a matter of public safety, and accordance with existing Registry policy, all operators who have been suspended for more than two-years or have had an expired licenses for more than four-years, are required to take the written permit test at a branch location as well as a road test. License duplicate or license renewal fees also apply to all customers seeking reinstatement.

The following forms of payment are accepted for all the transactions listed below: Cash, check (payable to MassDOT), money order, or credit/debit card.

  • Permit/Written Test $30
  • Road Test $35
  • Class D/Passenger Duplicate License $25
  • Class D/Passenger License Renewal $50 (customers may renew up to one year in advance of expiration)

The legislation does not provide for reimbursement, or a refund, of reinstatement fees previously paid on 94C offenses.

The legislation requires the RMV to shield from public release any drug offenses, expect for those convicted of trafficking in a controlled substance, as well as any expired warrants or expired child support obligations. The legislation provides the RMV with 6 months to complete this technical phase of the project. Shielded records will not be available until October of 2016. Any driving record ordered prior to October 2016 will contain drug offenses and both historical and current warrant and child support obligation information.

Customers also must address any outstanding financial obligations such as any state or excise taxes, child support payments, parking tickets, or E-ZPass violations.

Branches with Hearing Hours:

  • Boston, Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm
  • Braintree, Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday from 9am to 5pm, Thursdays 10am to 5pm
  • Fall River, Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday from 9am to 5pm, Thursdays 10am to 5pm
  • Lawrence, Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday from 9am to 5pm, Thursdays 10am to 5pm
  • Pittsfield, Wednesdays, 9am to 4pm
  • South Yarmouth, Monday & Tuesday, 9am to 5pm
  • Springfield, Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday from 9am to 5pm, Thursdays 10am to 5pm
  • Wilmington, Monday & Tuesday, 9am to 5pm
  • Worcester, Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday from 9am to 5pm, Thursdays 10am to 5pm

If you are denied reinstatement under this law, you have the right to be represented by a lawyer and to appeal the denial to the Board of Appeal.

New Ignition Interlock Bill Proposed

statehouseThere is currently a bill pending at the Massachusetts Statehouse which would replace the current hardship licensing program with ignition interlock licenses. If enacted, this bill would require first offenders to have ignition interlock restricted licenses and it would also allow all repeat DUI offenders, regardless of the number of prior drunk driving convictions appearing on the person’s record, to apply for an “ignition interlock license.”

Senator James Timility of Walpole sponsored the bill and it is currently under consideration by the Joint Committee on Transportation. A hearing on the proposed legislation was conducted in November of last year and it has received some media attention.

The proposed law has no waiting periods for these licenses so that DUI offenders could apply to MassDOT immediately after conviction. The proposed legislation also allows for the issuance of IID restricted licenses during chemical test refusal suspensions. Currently, repeat offenders who refused  breath tests are not able to get hardship licenses while the breathalyzer refusal suspension is in effect. The proposed law would, if passed, would allow someone who is arrested for DUI to seek a driver’s license while the DUI case is being litigated. Refusal suspensions range in length from 6 months up to lifetime.

The basis for the proposed law change is statistics which show that many convicted drunk drivers who have had their driver’s licenses suspended or revoked continue to drive anyway. The theory behind the bill is that the public will be protected because these drivers will be able to lawfully drive, so long as they are only operating ignition interlock device equipped motor vehicles. The IID  would prevent the person’s vehicle from starting if his blood alcohol level registered at or above .02. Evidence of circumvention, disconnection, and/or failed rolling retests result in the driver being called in for a hearing.

The bill basically terminates drunk driving license suspensions generated by convictions, alcohol education program assignments, pleas, and breath test refusals with the issuance of ignition interlock restricted licenses. Unlike Massachusetts hardship licenses, which are valid only for 12 hours each day, these restricted driver’s licenses would be valid for 24 hours a day. It basically replaces hardship licenses with interlock licenses and allows offenders to apply for these licenses immediately, with no waiting period. Offenders would have a choice – agree to enroll in the IID program or give up the right to drive. These devices cost approximately $100.00 per month and they must be monitored, calibrated, and downloaded on a monthly basis.

Ignition Interlocks are not new to Massachusetts. We have been using them here since Melanie’s Law was enacted on January 1, 2006. Currently, all repeat OUI offenders must use the IID for the entire term of any hardship license and for a minimum of 2 full years after getting the hours removed and obtaining a fulltime right to operate.

License Suspensions for JOL Speeding Violations

The Massachusetts Legislature has enacted harsh penalties for those under 18 years of age who are cited for speeding and hardship relief is not available from the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Massachusetts has adopted a graduated license system, pursuant to which a licensed operators under the age of 18 are deemed “junior operators.” Holders of this type of license face harsh penalties for speeding violations, unauthorized passengers, and driving during restricted hours.

For example, under Massachusetts law, the holder of a Junior Operator’s License who is found responsible for speeding with automatically have his or her driver’s license suspended for 90 days for a first speeding offense and 1 year for a second offense.

The RMV imposes stringent reinstatement requirements for these suspensions. Unless the Board of Appeal rules otherwise, to reinstate you must complete the “Attitude Retraining Program,” pay a $500.00 Driver’s License Reinstatement Fee, and re-take both written and road tests. You must also attend and successfully complete the State Courts Against Road Rage (SCARR) program.

Hearings at the Registry on these license suspensions are limited only to the accuracy of the customer’s driving record. All other issues must be appealed to the Division of Insurance, Board of Appeal, which has the legal authority to afford relief in the form of elimination of the reinstatement requirements, shortening the suspension, or granting a 12 hour hardship driver’s license.

In JOL speeding cases, the Board of Appeal uses its powers sparingly. In order to convince the Board to grant you relief, you must have a very compelling case. The Board members generally agree with the Registry’s position that young drivers should learn early on about the consequences of bad driving, so that they will be responsible drivers. Also, JOL holders may have difficulty establishing that they have a hardship which is sufficient enough to obtain relief from the Registry’s Appellate Board. A lawyer may be able to help convince the Board to render a favorable decision.


Admissions to Sufficient Facts

In accordance with G.L. c. 278 § 18, you may be able to avoid a DUI conviction by making an admission to sufficient facts instead of pleading guilty. If you are able to resolve your operating under the influence case in this manner, your case will be continued without a finding and eventually dismissed. This might sound like a great option. However, under Mass. law, the continuance without a finding (CWOF) and dismissal will be counted as a conviction if you are arrested for another OUI in the future. This is because the law treats drug or alcohol program assignments and admissions to sufficient facts just like convictions for license suspension and automobile insurance surcharge purposes.

Not all cases are eligible to be CWOF’ed. For example, Leaving the Scene of a Motor Vehicle Accident after causing Personal Injury, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and subsequent offense OUI, some 2nd offense OUI cases (where the 1st offense disposition is less than 10 year from the 1st offense), Motor Vehicle Homicide, and OUI causing Serious Bodily Injury. In order to get a continuance without a finding for DUI, the case must be resolved pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 24D.

If you are not legally entitled to a G.L. c. 90 § 24D disposition, the Registry of Motor Vehicles will not honor the 45-90 day loss of license imposed by the court. Instead, the RMV will suspend your license based on your record of prior convictions, such as 2 years for a 2nd offense and 8 years for a 3rd offense.

For drunk driving offenses committed on or after July 1, 2012, a prior CWOF will count as a conviction when calculating the length of chemical test refusal (CTR) suspensions. This means that if you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer after having been previously arrested for DUI, your license will be suspended for 3 years for the refusal, if the prior case was resolved by a guilty finding, 24D disposition, or CWOF, even if the first offense was eventually dismissed after a alcohol education program assignment.

Although an admission to sufficient facts and CWOF will count as a conviction for license suspension purposes, it does not constitute a conviction for other purposes. For example, it will not automatically disqualify you from being issued a License to Carry Firearms in Massachusetts and it is not considered a DWI conviction for employment purposes.