Law Office of Isaac J. Mass -- Greenfield, Massachusuetts
 
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Hardship Licenses, sometimes called a Cinderella License are issued by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles to some offenders for a legitimate purpose such as going to work, attending school, or receiving medical treatment. Hardship Licenses are valid for a consecutive 12 hour period (e.g.  8:00 AM to 8:00 PM). Such licenses are only granted to Massachusetts license holders.  In order to apply for a hardship license, you must attend a hearing at a Registry of Motor Vehicles hearings site

A hardship will only be considered for the following offenses certain offenses. You will need all required documents with you when you meet with the Hearing Officer.  Obtaining a hardship license is sometimes difficult, especially without a
skilled lawyer. Although an applicant may meet all requirements, issuance of a hardship license is only granted at the reasonable discretion of the Registry of Motor Vehicles, based on the facts of the case.

An attorney can help present your case in the light most favorable to you emphasizing the issues that are most important to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.  For example in accordance with Melanie's Law, the Registry of Motor Vehicles is changing its policy regarding who is eligible for a hardship license. To be eligible for a hardship license, you may now be required to present proof that you do not have access by public transportation to your required destination.  You should be represented by an attorney when seeking a hardship license.  

For an opportunity to consult a an attorney about representation at a Registry of Motor Vehicle hearing contact the Law Office of Isaac J. Mass.  The Law Office of Isaac J. Mass can also represent you in hearings before the Board of Appeals after an unsuccessful hearing at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. 



 
 
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December  18th, 2012 , in Commonwealth v. Jones,  
the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that it was ok to deny a defendant’s right to admit into evidence that, shortly after he had declined to take a breathalyzer test, he changed his mind and requested but was not given the test.


On May  14, 2010, a witness was driving north on Route 10 in Southampton when she reported a pickup truck being driven erratically. The defendant was the driver of the truck and was stopped by the Easthampton police.  The police administered a field sobriety test, and the defendant performed poorly.  He was then placed under arrest.

The defendant, prior to trial, moved that he be permitted to testify that, at the police station, he initially declined to take a breathalyzer test, then "shortly afterwards" changed his mind and asked to take the test, but one was not administered.  Although the prosecutor did not  object, he wanted to introduce evidence that the defendant did not recant his initial refusal, and that he had also refused certain field sobriety tests and suggested the proposed testimony would “open a can of worms”. The judge denied the defendant's motion. 
 
The Supreme Court found, the judge acted within the scope of his discretion in excluding the testimony. The defendant sought to testify that, shortly after declining to take a breathalyzer test, he requested to do so.  Such evidence could only exonerate the defendant by suggesting that he thought he was not intoxicated at the time the request was made. But the court has held that "consciousness of innocence is of very little value, because there are a variety of different motives that can prompt action consistent with innocence." Commonwealth v. Espada, 450 Mass. 687, 698 (2008). 
 
The court  believes a recantation of an initial refusal to take a breathalyzer test is likely motivated by the desire to avoid suspension of the suspect's driver's license as it is with consciousness of innocence.

IF you have been arrested for operatining under the infulence or neglegent operation, contact the law office of Isaac J. Mass for a consultation.

 
 
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Late Wednesday night the Massachusetts Senate with Sen. Stanley Rosenberg presiding unanimously voted to close a “loophole” in state law meant to enhance penalties for repeat drunk drivers that was exposed last week by the Supreme Judicial Court when it overturned the license suspension of a two-time offender.

Since then, as first predicted here, the Registries of Motor Vehicles have been inundated with Souza Hearings for reinstatement of suspended licenses.  Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and Sen. Katherine Clark backed the budget amendment, which Tarr said had been “painstakingly” reviewed and edited so as to apply only to repeat drunk drivers.

 Tarr's amendment, seeks to address the SJC ruling that “continuance without a finding” resolutions in cases against certain defendants accused of operating under the influence are not considered convictions under Melanie’s Law, because the language did not include "or alcohol treatment program" and therefore would not trigger increased license revocation penalties for repeat drunk drivers intended under the law.

The amendment passed 37-0 in the final vote of the night.  Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty has said he would pursue similar action in the House to correct Melanie’s Law. The window is quickly closing on this loophole.  If you have a conviction after a CWOF and want you license reinstated, you must apply to the Registry of Motor Vehicles immediately before the House passes a similar measure and the Governor signs the bill.  For more information or representation before the RMV contact the Law Office of Isaac J. Mass.


 
 
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Today, in Souza v. Registrar of Motor Vehicles, SJC-11123 (2012),Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a Continued Without Finding (CWOF) dismissed after probation does not count as a conviction for the purpose of driver’s license suspension for refusal to take breathalyzer.

Pursuant to G. L. c. 90, § 24 (1) (f) (1) (§ 24 [1] [f] [1]), the Registrar of Motor Vehicles is required to suspend an arrested driver’s license for three years for refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test if the driver has been previously “convicted” of an OUI offense. If the driver has not been previously convicted, the license suspension period is 180 days.

If you have had a second offense OUI conviction but your first offense was continued without a finding, you may be able to get your license back now or at least shorten your suspension period to 180 day.  You may also be able to shorten your suspension period if you have had more than one prior offense.

He Court held held “[i]f the Legislature, in enacting Melanie’s Law, had wanted to include an admission to sufficient facts in the definition of “convicted,” it could have done so explicitly”

The court “recognized that an admission to sufficient facts and an associated continuance without a finding constitute ‘a procedure which often serves the best interests of both the Commonwealth and the defendant. The benefit to a defendant is obvious: he may be able to avoid a trial and ‘earn’ a dismissal of the indictment or complaint, thereby avoiding the consequences of having a criminal conviction on his record.’”  One consequence of the conviction being the longer suspension of the license.

Undoubtedly, this decision will raise the ire of many people who felt the Melanie’s Law was designed to combat the surge of repeat offenders.  They will surely push the legislature to amend Melanie’s Law right away to close this loophole.  If you have had your license suspended by the Registry of Motor Vehicles after any criminal case, you need to have your case reviewed by an attorney right away to see if your suspension can be removed or shortened in duration, before the legislature takes action.  For a evaluation of your case, contact the Law Office of Isaac J. Mass.


 
 
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Police officers heavily depend on so-called field sobriety tests when they suspect a driver of being intoxicated.  The first thing you should know is that you have a constitutional right enshrined in the 5th amendment of the US Constitution to refuse the field sobriety test.  Furthermore, your failure to take the test may not be used against you at trial.  Additionally, unlike a refusal to take a breathalyzer, there are not statutory civil penalties for failing to take a field sobriety test, i.e. you will not lose your license for the refusal. 

The appeal of field sobriety tests for law enforcement is clear: Drunk driving is dangerous and law enforcement agencies need easy-to-use, scientifically and legally valid ways of identifying drunkenness. The field sobriety tests that are most commonly used in Massachusetts, however, aren't as reliable as they should be, and are often administered improperly. This means that completely innocent drivers who haven't even had one drink can sometimes be arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends three specific tests as the most reliable: the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg-stand. The NHTSA says that police officers who use all three tests on a suspected drunk driver have a high chance of making the right call as to whether or not the driver is actually drunk. In what the NHTSA considers the most accurate, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test a police officer asks a driver to follow a small flashlight side to side with his or her eyes. If the driver is drunk, his or her eyeballs shake as they look to the side. The walk-and-turn test is similar to walking a balance beam back and forth on an imaginary straight line. And the one-leg stand involves perhaps the greatest physical challenge: drivers are must stand still with their arms at their sides, raise one leg six inches off the ground while keeping it straight and pointing at their toes, looking at their raised toes, and count forward from 1,001. Swaying, raising arms for balance, hopping, putting the foot down, or starting to count before the police officer instructs are all be viewed as signs of drunkenness.

The scientific basis of field sobriety tests lies in a 35-year-old study of how well field sobriety tests could identify blood alcohol content. That study was conducted with only 238 subjects, mostly men 22-29 years old, and no control group. The Washington Post reported, "hundreds of thousands of drivers have been arrested -- no doubt many deservedly so -- on the basis of a 30-year-old study that, critics argue, has never been published in a peer-reviewed, scientific journal, never tested on a large scale with a control group and, perhaps more astonishing, has nothing to do with actual impairment from alcohol."

Besides the tests' scientific faultiness, they can also falsely identify as drunk people who just have medical issues. Balance disorders affect 40% of Americans at some point in their lives, and dizziness and vertigo are the third leading cause for visits to doctors. The older you get, and the heavier you get, the worse your balance. For an aging population with a growing number of overweight and obese people, the one-leg stand test sounds like a pretty ineffective gauge of whether someone is drunk.  The CDC reports that by 2030 42% of the US population will be obese.

If you have been arrested or charged with Operating Under the Influence you need a criminal attorney who knows, how to point out the scientific problems with both the field sobriety test, the breathalyzer, and the administration of those tests in your case.  If you would like a free consultation on your case, contact the Law Office of Isaac J. Mass.  Attorney Mass’ Greenfield office is located the heart of Franklin County, a block from the Greenfield district court. Attorney Mass represents clients with criminal and civil motor vehicle offenses throughout Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden and Berkshire Counties as well as across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Attorney Mass is a featured speaker at driving schools in western Massachusetts.


 

(c) 2012 Law Office of Isaac J. Mass, 289 Main Street, Suite 201 Greenfield, MA 01301