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Massachusetts Immediate Threat Suspensions

G.L. c. 90, Sec. 22(a) grants the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles broad power to indefinitely revoke a driver’s license for violations of the motor vehicle laws which constitute an immediate threat to the public safety. A revocation under the immediate threat law has been determined not to constitute a punishment and, therefore, a criminal prosecutions and non-punitive immediate threat suspension arising out of the same incident, such as an operating under the influence event, does not violate the double jeopardy clause of the United States Constitution or Massachusetts common, statutory, or constitutional law.

These indefinite license revocations are usually triggered by a police officer filing a report with the RMV wherein he explains why allowing the driver to remain on the road constitutes an immediate threat to public safety. Sometimes the issue is medical related such as a case where a person is operating under the influence of prescription medication. In other cases, the report is generated as a result of dangerous or reckless driving witnessed by or reported to a police officer. Immediate threat reports may involve companion criminal charges.

The legal standard for an indefinite immediate threat revocation, which the Registry had wide latitude in interpreting, is that the driver “has committed 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.”

The immediate threat statute requires that the Registrar find that a license holder poses such a significant threat to public safety, that the license should be summarily taken. Additionally, law requires that the Registrar provide the operator with a notice specifying the time and place of the violation or incident that led to the immediate threat suspension.

Anyone who is had his or her license or right to operate revoked as an immediate threat is entitled to a hearing at the Registry of Motor Vehicles within 30 days of the revocation and the driver is entitled to be represented by a lawyer. Massachusetts Immediate threat revocations are indefinite in nature, meaning that the revocation will not terminate unless and until the license holder has proven to the Registry’s satisfaction that the causes of the past or present violations or issues of concern have been brought under control such that the driver no longer poses a threat to the motoring public. A Registry of Motor Vehicles lawyer can help you make this showing and get your license reinstated. The RMV charges a $500.00 reinstatement fee for immediate threat suspensions.

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