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Administrative Review Hearing in Massachusetts

Assuming you received notice of intent to suspend your license from the arresting officer, a clock began to count down.  You have the right to request a hearing before the Registrar but make sure you do so as soon as possible.  The law states that if you fail to request that hearing within 15 days, you have waived your right to it.  The Registrar is part of the Department of Transportation and the entity that has the power to give and revoke driving privileges.  For example, if you receive too many speeding tickets, the Registrar will revoke your license because you are considered a danger to the public.  The reason to request this hearing is to possibly get the suspension of your license lifted.  The Registrar will look at

1) did the officer have reasonable grounds to believe you were operating a motor vehicle under the influence in a place the public has access,

2) were you arrested, and

3) did you refuse to submit to a breath/blood test? 

If any of these elements are negative, the registrar shall immediately reinstate your license.  Number 1 gives the Registrar an opportunity to look at the elements of OUI and revoke the suspension if the state has not met its burden.  Number 2 looks at whether you were correctly arrested, and number 3 looks at refusal.  Since these elements have been discussed in detail, you can reference that material. Police will record inability to provide a sufficient sample as a refusal because it is assumed purposeful on the part of the suspect.  If however you were unable to provide a sufficient sample due to a health issue or because the machine was not working correctly, you can raise this issue.  If the police did not offer you an opportunity to provide a blood sample in place of your breath sample, number 3 in the list above should not be met.  Also, some jurisdictions have held that literal inability to either consent or refuse cannot be ground for the state holding you refused.  For example, if you were semiconscious because of some injury and could not provide a sufficient sample, that could be grounds for finding the element unmet.  Also, some jurisdictions have held the police must warn you of the consequences of refusal for it to count.  The site for hearings is available here.  Even if you lose at the hearing, you may file a petition for judicial review 30 days after the hearing and argue the state is exceeding its statutory or constitutional authority, incorrectly interpreted the law, acted arbitrarily or capriciously, or made a ruling unsupported by the evidence.  The court will be determined by your county of residence, so if you wish to appeal the decision, you should ask where to file those papers, but make sure you do so within that 30 days.  Again, failure to do so waives the right.

Assuming the test administered was blood instead of breath, you may request a hearing 10 days after suspension of your license to review whether the test in fact showed your BAC to be .08 for adults or .02 for persons below 21 years of age.

The most important thing to remember about the consequences of refusing a chemical test is that they are independent of the OUI charges against you.  You can actually be found not guilty of OUI and still be punished for refusing to give your consent to a chemical test.


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