Written by attorney Brian E. Simoneau

Appealing a Massachusetts Hardship License Denial

This article will explain and describe the mechanics of an appeal of a denial of a Massachusetts Hardship License, which is also referred to as a Cinderella or work license. These licenses are issued for work, school, or medical purposes when the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles has suspended a license due to DUI, Habitual Traffic Offender, Drug Convictions, 7 Surchargeable events , or any one of approximately 65 license suspension reasons. G.L. c. 90 s. 28 allows persons aggrieved by a hardship license denial to appeal to the Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations. The statute requires that the appeal be filed within ten (10) days. However, this requirement is generally not enforced. Such is the case because a prospective appellant who misses the 10 day appeal window could simply file a new hardship license appeal with the Registry of Motor Vehicles and then file a new appeal with the Board within the 10 day appeal filing window. The appeal is filed with the Board by filing a two page appeal form, which must be accompanied by a check or money order, in the amount of $50.00, made payable to the Division of Insurance. Appeals are scheduled based on the length of the suspension under appeal and when the appeal is filed, on a first come, first served basis. The best way to file an appeal is to do it in person at the Division of Insurance, 1000 Washington Street, Suite 803 in Boston, Massachusetts. The issuance of a hardship license is by no means guaranteed and hiring a lawyer who routinely practices before the Board can substantially increase your chances of success. Case preparation is critical and you must present "substantial evidence" to support the issuance of a hardship license, based on statutory criteria. The law requires hardship license applicants to demonstrate that the causes of the past or present violations have been brought under control such that returning the prospective driver to the road will not endanger public safety. The candidate must also convince the Board of Appeal that he or she has a compelling hardship, which is more than just an inconvenience. Generally, the Board considers only the inability to drive as it impacts work, school, or medical responsibilities and obligations. If the Board of Appeal denies issuance of a hardship license, the aggrieved appellant has only thirty (30) days from the date of the Board's decision to appeal to Superior Court, pursuant to G.L. c. 30A s. 14(7). This thirty day appeal deadline is absolute and the failure to file within the 30 day period will almost certainly result in dismissal of the appeal. Absent legal error, hardship license appeals to Superior Court are likely to fail. Upon judicial review such discretionary decisions are rightfully afforded substantial deference. See G.L. c. 90 s. 24(1)(c)(1) - (1)(c)(3 1/2 ) (Hardship license may be issued upon, in part, "a showing by the person that the causes of the present and past violations have been dealt with or brought under control and the registrar may, in his discretion...); See e.g. Camiolo v. Board of Appeal, 76 Mass. App. Ct. 1105 (2009) ("The board's decision to grant or deny reinstatement, or a request for a hardship license, is given significant deference.") Thus, it makes sense to have effective legal representation at the Board of Appeal, so as to increase your chances of success. The grounds for appeal are limited to claims that the Board's decision was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, unconstitutional, in excess of the Board's authority, made in error of law, or unsupported by substantial evidence. These are the only grounds for appeal. See G.L. c. 30A s. 14(7).

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