Hardship Licenses in Massachusetts

How Long Can My Massachusetts License Be Suspended For If I Refuse To Take The Breathalyzer?

Under Melanie’s law, there is a substantial punishment in the way of license loss for refusing to take the breathalyzer after being arrested for operating under the influence of alcohol. In Massachusetts, it is presumed that anyone would voluntarily submit to a breathalyzer at any time because it is a privilege to drive in this Commonwealth and not a “right.” For that reason, anyone who refuses to submit to the “breathalyzer” test will suffer a license loss.

The suspension for the refusal varies depending on how many previous OUI convictions a defendant has. If a defendant has no previous OUI convictions, the Registry will ordinarily suspend a license for 180 days. For a person with one prior conviction and a refusal, the suspension will be for three years. An individual with two prior offenses who refuses the breathalyzer test will lose his or her license for five years. Once a person has three prior offenses for OUI, the Registry will impose a lifetime loss of license for a breathalyzer refusal.

What Is A Hardship License?

The 2006 Massachusetts drunk driving statute created a provision for obtaining a hardship license in certain instances. This is a license issued by the Registry to a defendant that is only valid for twelve hours a day. For this reason it has earned the nickname of a “Cinderella license.” A predicate for the issuance for the hardship license is the resolution of the drunk driving case through either trial, guilty plea or dismissal. If you have been convicted of a second or subsequent DUI, in order to obtain a hardship license you must have an interlocking device installed in your car. The circumstances under which you might successfully apply for and obtain a hardship license are set out below.

  • First time offenders: 3 days after the imposition of a 24D disposition
  • First time offenders not receiving a 24D disposition: 3 to 6 months after disposition
  • Second time offenders: 1 year to 18 months after disposition
  • Third time offenders: 2-4 years after disposition
  • Fourth time offenders: 5-8 years after disposition
  • Fifth time offenders: NO HARDSHIP LICENCE
How Do I Know That My License Has Been Suspended?

It is important to realize that the privilege to operate a motor vehicle comes from the Registry of Motor Vehicles and NOT the judge. The Registry notifies individuals that their right to operate a motor vehicle has been suspended. Therefore, even if a judge forgets to inform a defendant of license loss consequences, the Registry will still suspend the operator’s license. Depending on the circumstances, driving when your license is suspended for OUI can carry a mandatory committed prison term. Therefore, it is important to understand when your license is suspended.

I Tried To Take The Breathalyzer But The Police Officer Could Not Get A Good Sample And Claimed That I Refused. Can I Appeal This?

Yes. If you believe that the police mistakenly determined that you refused the Breathalyzer you can appeal this to the Registry of Motor Vehicles in BOSTON. The Boston Registry is the only location in Massachusetts that can hear this type of appeal. It is not necessary to make an appointment but it is a good idea to arrive early. In the event that the Registry affirms the finding of the refusal, an appeal can be made to a district court judge.

How Does My License Get Reinstated?

An operator’s license to drive does NOT automatically become reinstated when the court case is resolved. The operator must go to the Registry and pay reinstatement fees to have his or her license properly reinstated.