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How Does a Massachusetts Driver Obtain A Hardship License?

January 10, 2014


A person can find themselves without the privilege to drive in Massachusetts, license revoked or suspended, for any number of legal reasons: An OUI conviction, a Driving To Endanger Conviction, an Operating After Suspension conviction, or classification as an Habitual Traffic Offender or even an Immediate Threat.

If the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) Hearings Division does not grant relief from a suspension, the only avenue for further consideration is the Board of Appeal. The three (3) member panel (Board) is authorized by statute to review any RMV suspension listed above and consider granting relief. The Board’s three (3) designees are appointed by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, The Attorney General, and the Commissioner of Insurance, respectively.

Most often my practice takes me before the Board sitting in Boston or Marlborough in pursuit of a twelve (12) hour hardship license for an OUI subsequent offender client. Most recently, I appeared before the Board in matters involving Immediate Threat suspension and a Habitual Offender suspension. The Board has statutory authority to exercise their discretion in reviewing any RMV suspension. The Board will “affirm” a suspension by leaving it in place, “modify” a suspension by granting relief in the form of a hardship license or early reinstatement, or instruct a driver to appear at a later date for reconsideration. A hardship license is often referred to a “cindarella license,” or a “work/employment license.”

The primary issue for the Board of Appeal is balancing public safety concerns against the hardship imposed open individuals and their families when a primary bread-winner is unable to drive. As most of these cases involve subsequent OUI Offenders the Board’s primary concerns are always expressed by the first two questions put to a hardship license applicant: “When was your last use of alcohol?” and “How do you maintain your sobriety?” If you can answer these questions to the satisfaction of the Board they will follow up with “What is your hardship?” and “How many dependents do you have?” It is always best to appear with documentation of employment, probation compliance, program completion and self-help participation, whether it be Alcoholics Anonymous or other forms or of substance abuse counselling. It doesn’t hurt to have letters of recommendation and even witnesses to substantiate your claim of hardship and worthiness of consideration for relief from the Board. The Board cannot grant relief from the requirement of an ignition interlock device (IID). The IID is required when any person having two or more lifetime OUI suspension is reinstated by the Massachusetts RMV or the Board of Appeal.

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