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What Are The Types of License Suspensions in Massachusetts and What are the Causes?

By The Law Office of Brett V. Beaubien

May 2, 2024

What Are The Types of License Suspensions in Massachusetts and What are the Causes?

In Massachusetts, the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) holds the authority to issue driver’s licenses and to suspend or revoke them when necessary. License suspensions are a means to enforce state laws and ensure public safety on the road. When a driver in Massachusetts violates motor vehicle laws or is deemed a risk to public safety, the Massachusetts RMV can suspend their license. The RMV’s decisions to suspend or revoke licenses are guided by the Massachusetts General Laws, which outline a comprehensive set of violations that can lead to such penalties. The individual will need a MA legal practitioner for resolving license suspension cases to help them get their license back.

Causes of License Suspension

Traffic Violations and Speeding

Traffic violations are a common cause for license suspension. Receiving multiple speeding tickets can lead to being labeled a habitual traffic offender. Excessive speeding, defined as driving at a speed that exceeds the posted limit by a significant amount, can result in immediate suspension.

Operating Under the Influence (OUI)

Drivers convicted of Operating Under the Influence (OUI) face immediate license suspension. The conviction date is typically when the suspension period begins. Multiple offenses increase the suspension length and may include additional penalties.

Accumulation of Surchargeable Events

A system of surchargeable events, which includes minor and major moving violations, tracks a driver’s infractions. Accumulating a certain number of points from these events within a specific timeframe can lead to a suspension.

Non-Moving Violations

Non-moving violations can be grounds for license suspension. These can include offenses related to vehicle maintenance and administrative requirements, such as failure to pay fines or fees.

Criminal Convictions and the Role of the Courts

Criminal convictions for offenses like manslaughter, theft, or leaving the scene of an accident carry significant license suspension consequences. The courts may issue suspension orders as part of the sentencing for these criminal charges, especially when driving behavior is involved.

Additional Reasons For License Suspension in Massachusetts

License suspensions can occur for a variety of reasons in Massachusetts, each with its own set of rules and consequences. Here is an expanded list of reasons why a driver’s license may be suspended:

Administrative License Suspension

This type of suspension is automatic and occurs when a driver refuses to take a chemical test (such as a breathalyzer) during a DUI stop or fails the test by having a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the legal limit. This is also known as “chemical test refusal” (CTR) suspension.

Mandatory License Suspension

Certain violations result in mandatory suspensions. For example, if a driver is convicted of a drug offense, the court must impose a license suspension regardless of whether the offense involved a vehicle.

Medical License Suspension

The RMV can suspend a driver’s license if they receive information that the driver has a medical condition that may impair their ability to operate a vehicle safely. The driver may be required to submit medical documentation or undergo testing to have their license reinstated.

License Suspension for Unpaid Fines or Fees

If a driver fails to pay traffic tickets, court fines, or fees, the RMV can suspend their license until the outstanding debts are settled.

Suspension for Accumulation of Points

Massachusetts operates on a point system where drivers accumulate “surchargeable events” on their record for traffic violations. If a driver accrues a certain number of points within a set time frame, their license can be suspended.

License Suspension for Underage Drivers

Drivers under the age of 21 who are convicted of alcohol-related offenses face stricter BAC limits and longer suspension periods. This also includes zero-tolerance for any alcohol in their system while driving.

Out-of-State License Suspension

Massachusetts can suspend a driver’s license if they have been suspended or revoked in another state. A driver must resolve the out-of-state suspension and provide proof to the RMV before their Massachusetts license can be reinstated.

License Suspension for Non-Driving Related Reasons

A driver’s license can be suspended for non-driving reasons, such as failure to pay child support, failure to appear in court, or vandalism.

Indefinite License Suspension

In some cases, a driver’s license may be suspended indefinitely. This can occur if the driver fails to respond to a citation or does not provide the necessary documentation requested by the RMV. The suspension remains in effect until the driver takes the required action.

For each type of suspension, the process of reinstatement can vary. It may involve attending hearings, completing educational programs, paying fines, or providing documentation to prove eligibility for reinstatement. Drivers are advised to consult with legal counsel or the Massachusetts RMV for specific guidance related to their situation.

Man Driving And Checking His Phone

Consequences and Process

License Suspension Notice and Timeline

Once the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) decides to suspend a license, the driver receives a suspension notice. This notice is typically sent by mail and contains important details such as the reason for suspension, duration, and the effective date. In cases of immediate threat suspensions or criminal charges, the suspension can take effect immediately. Drivers have the right to operate their vehicle up to the suspension start date unless specified otherwise by the RMV or a court due to certain convictions or arrests.

Rights and Obligations After Suspension

After receiving a suspension notice, drivers must adhere to their obligations and understand their rights. Driving is illegal during the suspension period, and doing so can lead to additional penalties or revocation of driving privileges. To reinstate a license, drivers are usually required to fulfill certain conditions, which may include paying a reinstatement fee. Information regarding reinstatement procedures can be found on or obtained directly from RMV service centers.

Hearing Procedures and Appeals

Drivers have the right to contest a license suspension through suspension hearings. They may file a complaint with the Division of Insurance Board of Appeals. Hearings must be requested within a specific timeframe, which is detailed in the suspension notice. Preparing a defense for the hearing is crucial, as it may influence the outcome. 

If the appeal is successful, the suspension can be lifted. In some cases, drivers may need to attend a hearing at an RMV service center or through the Division of Insurance Board of Appeals. The process is governed by license suspension law, and the board’s decision is usually final, although further appeals in court may be possible.

Special Categories of Drivers

Junior Operators and Learner’s Permits

Junior operators in Massachusetts are drivers between the ages of 16½ and 18. They are subject to stricter regulations due to their limited driving experience. A junior operator’s license (JOL) can be suspended for offenses like speeding, drag racing, or the use of mobile devices while driving. Additionally, carrying passengers under 18 or driving between 12:30 AM and 5:00 AM without a parent is prohibited without specific exemptions.

Learner’s permits are issued to individuals learning to drive. Permit holders must be accompanied by a licensed driver who is 21 years old or older. Infractions such as moving violations or driving without a qualified supervisor can result in suspension of driving privileges.

Car Keys Hanging On Car Doors

Repeat Offenders and Habitual Traffic Offenders

Individuals classified as habitual traffic offenders have a documented pattern of traffic law violations. Massachusetts defines a habitual traffic offender as someone who, within a five-year period, has three or more major moving violations or any combination of twelve major and minor offenses.

Habitual offenders face tougher penalties and longer suspension periods due to the recurring nature of their violations. Their driving records are closely monitored to ensure compliance with state traffic laws.

Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) and Professional Drivers

Holders of Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) are held to higher standards given their professional status and the nature of their vehicles. Infractions such as DUI, reckless driving, or leaving the scene of an accident lead not only to the suspension of their CDL but also affect their standard driver’s license.

The state stresses the importance of a clean driving record for professional drivers, as they are responsible for the safe transport of goods and passengers. Penalties for violations are severe to emphasize the necessity of adhering to traffic laws.

Restoration of Driving Privileges

Hardship License Eligibility

Individuals may apply for a hardship license if they require a vehicle for employment, school, or medical reasons during a suspension period. Eligibility for a hardship license includes:

  • Proof of a legitimate hardship
  • Satisfying a mandatory waiting period post-suspension
  • Absence of out-of-state violations

Completing a Driver Retraining Program

To reinstate driving privileges, one might need to complete a state-approved driver retraining program. Requirements include:

  • Attendance and successful completion of the program
  • Submission of completion certificate to the Registry of Motor Vehicles

Meeting Legal Obligations and Clearing Records

Reinstating a driver’s license involves resolving any legal impediments:

  • Paying all required fines and reinstatement fees
  • Clearing any child support arrears if applicable
  • Settling court-related issues, possibly with the assistance of an attorney

Additional steps may be necessary, such as passing a breathalyzer test if the suspension was for an alcohol-related offense. Legally transparent windows and accurate vision tests are also essential for public safety reasons and can be demanded by a police officer in Boston or any other city as solid evidence of compliance.

Categories: Massachusetts Laws

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