Why was my license suspended?
The RMV can suspend or revoke a driver’s license indefinitely if they receive information that the drivers continued operation of a motor vehicle creates an immediate threat to public safety.
The two most common reasons people receive immediate threat suspensions are:
- A police officer determined that you were not safe to operate. This may happen as a result of a car accident where you were at fault and they suspect drugs or alcohol may have been involved. It could also happen in a case of erratic or negligent operation.
- A physician has formed the opinion that you have a medical condition which makes it unsafe for you to continue driving a vehicle.
What does immediate threat mean?
Under Massachusetts law a driver will have their license suspended indefinitely if they Commit 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 M.G.L. c. 90 Sec. 22(a).
A hardship or “Cinderella” license is not available for drivers who have an immediate threat suspension. The reason that hardships are denied for this type of suspension is because the DMV has determined that any operation by the driver poses an immediate threat to the public.
How do I get my license back?
The first step is to consult with an attorney who handles cases before the RMV and Board of Appeals to discuss your specific case. I specialize in these types of cases.
Next you will have to appear before the RMV to appeal the suspension. If you have a pending court case connected to the suspension, the RMV will not rule on your appeal. They will advise you to come back after your court case is resolved. The Hearing Officer may make preliminary recommendations regarding steps to take to increase your chances of reinstatement. However, the Registry will not reinstate from an immediate threat revocation while criminal charges are pending. In those situations, you will have to go through the reinstatement hearing process when the criminal case is resolved and reinstatement is by no means automatic, even if the criminal charges were dismissed or the defendant was found not guilty.
In some cases, it makes sense to appeal an indefinite immediate threat revocation directly to the Board of Appeal. Where to go and what path to take depends on the facts and circumstances of the individual case.
Related: Why You Need A Lawyer For RMV Hearings
You do not always have to wait until your case is resolved in court before attempting to get relief. You can appeal to the Board of Appeals in some situations, even while the case is pending. These situations are the rare exception. The process involves sending an appeal form and fee to the Board and requesting a hearing date. Your hearing will typically be scheduled at one of the Board locations. Your attorney will advise you as to what steps to take prior to your hearing. Additionally, your attorney will prepare a memorandum of law explaining why you should have your driver’s license reinstated.
Contact the Law Office of Brian E. Simoneau, we specialize in beating RMV hearings. Get in touch today to see how we can help.
How is the RMV hearing different from my conviction in criminal court?
Subject to review by the Board of Appeal, the RMV has the ultimate jurisdiction over your driving privilege, and thus has the ultimate say over driver’s license suspensions and revocations.
The RMV suspension or revocation is an administrative action taken against your driving privilege only. The suspension or revocation following a conviction in court is a mandatory action in addition to jail, fines, or other criminal penalties.
I’ve just been arrested for DUI or drunk driving. What happens now?
The officer who arrested you is required by law to immediately forward a copy of the completed notice of suspension or revocation form and any driver license taken into possession, along with a sworn report, to the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). The RMV automatically conducts an administrative review, which includes an examination of the officer’s report, the suspension or revocation order, and any test results.
Related: Out of State DUI Q&A
When I was arrested, the officer confiscated my driver’s license. How do I get it back?
If you failed a breath test, you will have a 30 day administrative per se license suspension and you can reinstate at the expiration of the 30 day suspension period upon payment of the $500.00 reinstatement fee.
If you refused to submit to a breath test, your license will be automatically suspended for 180 days up to life. You have a right to appeal the refusal suspension within 15 days of the suspension. In all cases, you must see a Registry Hearing Officer and go through the hearing process.
The officer said I refused to take a chemical test. What does this mean?
You are required by law to submit to a chemical test to determine the alcohol or drug content of your blood. If you refused to take a blood or breath test after being arrested for DUI and being requested to submit to the test, you will have your driver’s license automatically suspended or revoked for the refusal.
Related: How to Win Your RMV Refusal Hearing
There has been considerable controversy, misinformation, and media attention regarding a problem with the administration of chemical breath tests in Massachusetts DUI cases.
Chemical breath tests which police administer in Operating Under the Influence cases in Massachusetts are governed by 501 CMR 2.11. This regulation requires the use of a “simulator” which has been tested to contain a pre-determined alcohol concentration. In order to ensure the validity of breath tests, this simulator is tested in between an arrestee’s two breath samples to ensure that the breathalyzer is functioning properly and reporting an accurately reporting the test subject’s blood alcohol content. The DUI suspect’s breath sample and the simulator test is separated by two “air blanks” to ensure that there is no air from the subject’s breath sample in the device when the simulator is being tested.
The Drager Alcotest 9510 breath testing devices, which were placed into service in police departments throughout Massachusetts several years ago, should have been programmed to invalidate a breath test if the reported blood alcohol content (BAC) of the simulator falls outside of the range of 0.074 – 0.086%. It has become apparent that some devices may not have been programmed in accordance with this legal standard.
Therefore, a relatively small number of breathalyzer tests in Massachusetts may have been invalid, because the breathalyzer failed to reject and invalidate a test If the simulator calibration check result was not between 0.074 – 0.086%. If this occurred, the breath test is invalid, as a matter of law, and should have been admitted in a drunk driving prosecution.
Assumedly, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has records of breath tests administered and the Commonwealth should contact defense counsel in cases where convictions were obtained based on invalid breath tests. It would seem that such information is considered exculpatory under Brady and other cases which place an affirmative duty on the prosecution to produce exculpatory evidence to defense counsel in criminal cases.
If you believe that the breathalyzer results may have been invalid in your Massachusetts DUI case, you should contact your defense lawyer and have him or her review the breath test ticket that was generated. If the calibration check result falls outside of the acceptable range, you may be able to seek judicial review of your conviction by filing a Motion for a New Trial, pursuant to Rule 30 of the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure. These motions can be granted at any time if it appears that justice may not have been done in the original trial.
Of the thousands of breath tests administered in Massachusetts, only a few hundred cases are impacted by this issue. The vast majority of tests are valid and admissible.
In 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.
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