Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles Fails to Properly Suspend Operators with Out of State Convictions

The horrific actions of Volodymry Zhukovskyy which led to the death of seven individuals in New Hampshire has once again shined the spotlight on the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The Registrar in Massachusetts and their designees are charged with ensuing both the accuracy and completeness of drivers records.  G.L. c. 90 Sec. 22(c) provides that if the Registrar receives notice in any form that a resident of the Commonwealth or a person licensed by the Commonwealth has been convicted in another state of a motor vehicle violation, the registrar shall give the same effect to the conviction for purposes of suspension of the right to operate here in the Commonwealth.

In other words when the Registry receives notice whether through USPS Mail or Electronic Notice through the National Driver Registry (NDR) that either (a) a resident of Massachusetts or (b) a person with a Massachusetts Drivers Licenses has been convicted in another state of any motor vehicle violation, Massachusetts has an obligation to add the conviction information to the Massachusetts Drivers Record. If the offense for which the person was convicted is one that would have suspended their right to operate had it occurred here in the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Registry by law is to give it the same suspension as if it occurred in Massachusetts. 

For example, a Massachusetts Resident and/or License Holder is visiting family in Florida. While in Florida they get pulled over and arrested for Operating Under the Influence (OUI). Ultimately, if the individual either pleads guilty or is found guilty after trial, they are supposed to face the same license suspension here in Massachusetts as if the offense had occurred here. The way the system is supposed to work Florida is to add the suspension to the National Driver Registry (NDR) System and send notification to Massachusetts of the conviction. 

Unfortunately, the case of Mr. Zhukovskyy uncovered that Massachusetts was receiving both electronic and paper notification of out of state convictions for Massachusetts Residents and License Holders but since March, 2018 has failed to do anything.

Now, Mr. Zhukovskyy was a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) Holder.  Mr. Zhukovskyy was recently arrested and refused the breathalyzer test in Connecticut. Refusing the breathalyzer test in another state, is not by itself a suspendable offense in Massachusetts. However, under Federal Law and codified in G.L. c. 90f Sec. 9, a CDL holder who refuses a breathalyzer test will loose their CDL for either one year or life. Mr. Zhukovskyy who had a prior 2013 should have had his CDL suspended for the rest of his life following the Connecticut breathalyzer refusal. Unfortunately, Massachusetts officials failed to properly review the out-of-state notification system and took no action.

An initial investigation following Mr. Zhukovskyy's arrest discovered mail bins at the Registry of Motor Vehicles Quincy Headquarters full of  out of state conviction notices. In most instances, the notices laid in unopened envelopes in at least 53 large mail bins. The Registry staff completely neglected their obligations to review these notices and where appropriate add the convictions to the operators Massachusetts Record since at least March, 2018. For sixteen months the mail just got thrown into bins. States across the United States were doing their part to notify Massachusetts of the convictions but Massachusetts officials did nothing.

The immediate result of the Registry's failure to act is that hundreds and likely thousands of Massachusetts Residents or License Holders who should have had their right to operate suspended remained active. The Registry failed to take any action and drivers licenses were never suspended.

Now State Officials from the Governor's Office down to entry level Registry of Motor Vehicle Officials are scrambling to point blame (where it can be uncovered) and come up with a solution. To date, at least 546 license suspensions have been imposed. This number is expected to increase significantly.

If you receive notification that your license has been or is going to be suspended, contact Gilman Law, P.C. for a Free Consultation. Having a lawyer who specializes in fighting Registry of Motor Vehicle Suspensions can help get you back on the road. Don't let the Registry's negligence impact your life for one more day than necessary.

 

 

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