Being charged with driving under the influence is difficult enough, but to be under 21 years old and charged with this offense is even more challenging. In this blog, I provide answers to common questions young people and their parents have about these charges and discuss how you may be eligible to get a hardship license.
License Suspension Penalties
The length of any immediate license suspension depends on whether you took the breathalyzer test or refused to take it. If you took the breathalyzer test and failed, you will have a 30-day license suspension plus a Youth Alcohol Program Suspension (discussed below). If you refused the breath test, you will have a three-year license suspension plus the Youth Alcohol Program Suspension. During these suspension time periods, you are not eligible for a hardship license until you resolve the criminal case.
What Is the Youth Alcohol Program License Suspension?
If you took and failed the breath test, or you refused the test altogether, there is a second license suspension that runs on and after either the 30 day or three-year license suspension. For individuals who are under 18 years old, there will be an additional one-year license suspension. If you are between 18 and 21 years old, the additional license suspension period will be 180 days. You can have this license suspension period reduced by 180 days if you enroll in a Massachusetts Substance Abuse Education Program (24D) program and provide proof to a Registry of Motor Vehicles hearing officer. Enrolling in the Youth Alcohol Program and providing proof to the Registry of Motor Vehicles will reduce your license suspension by 180 days.
What to Do If You Refused the Breathalyzer
If you refused the breath test at the police station and you are under 21 years old, you will have a license suspension for three years. By law, you have the right to appeal this license suspension. However, there are very strict time limits on making this appeal and very limited grounds to base your appeal on. You have just 15 days from the OUI/DUI arrest to request a hearing at the Registry of Motor Vehicles in Boston. There are only three grounds that your appeal can be based on: first, that at the time you were offered the breath test, you were not under arrest; second, that you took the test; and third, that at the time you were offered the breath test, there was not enough evidence to give the police a reasonable suspicion that you were operating under the influence.
Additional License Suspensions
If you decide to admit to the charges and resolve your criminal case, or you go to trial and are found guilty, there will be an additional license suspension of 210 days. This additional suspension time is added to the other suspension periods discussed here and it runs on and after.
Is Trying an OUI Different If the Client Is Under 21 and Applying for a Hardship License?
No, not at all. The defenses whether you are over 21 years old or under 21 years old are all the same. The significant difference is the license suspension periods. The government still must meet its significant burden of proving you were operating a motor vehicle under the influence, which is a difficult burden to meet. Once you resolve your OUI/DUI criminal case by either deciding to plea or going to trial and being found guilty, you can apply for a hardship license.
A hardship license is also known as a work or Cinderella license because these licenses are valid for only twelve hours a day, seven days a week. You are unlicensed the other twelve hours. To apply for a hardship license, you need to sign up, complete an intake interview, and receive proof of enrollment from one of the many 24D Substance Abuse Programs across Massachusetts. You will also need to obtain proof of employment from your employer. This letter must be on your employer's letterhead, state the need for a license, and include the hours you work. Once you have these documents, you are able to go to one of the Registry of Motor Vehicle branches where hearing officers are stationed and apply. Being under 21 years old will bring a heightened level of scrutiny to your appeal.