The Massachusetts Board of Appeal

The Division of Insurance of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations has, as part of its structure, a board which hears appeals from decisions of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. Known formally as the Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liability Policies and Bonds, it is comprised of 3 members with the Registrar and Attorney General each designating one member, and the Commissioner of Insurance designating a member who serves as the Board’s Chairman.
Pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 28, the Board of Appeal has the power to affirm, modify, or annul virtually any decision of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. The Board exercises this power very carefully and responsibly. Board of Appeal hearings are recorded and witnesses testify under oath. The Board has subpoena power and it can order the production of books, papers, agreements, and documents. Anyone who testifies falsely in front of the Board can be prosecuted for perjury. The Board of Appeal can seek enforcement of its orders by the Massachusetts Courts.
Many who come before the Board have their licenses suspended or revoked and they are seeking a hardship license, which is a license valid for 12 hours each day which is issued for work, school, or educational purposes. When hearing hardship license appeals, the Board very carefully balances the appellant’s need to drive with any risk to public safety associated with granting the license. The Board makes a careful and detailed inquiry into each case and it is always mindful of the risks associated with granting a hardship license.
In order to succeed in a hardship license case, the appellant must present key information to convincingly address his or her need to drive as well as the likelihood of recidivism. To get a hardship license from the Board, the Appellant must prove that he or she has a compelling and legitimate need to drive, such that the lack of a license presents an extreme and severe hardship. Next, the appellant must prove that the causes of his or her past or present problems have been brought under control such that the lives and safety of the public would not be endangered by the issuance of a hardship license. There are many different ways which an appellant can make the evidentiary showing required to get a hardship license. Hiring an attorney who specializes in Board of Appeal cases can often make the difference between getting a hardship license or being forced to serve a long and painful license suspension.
To save money, many who come before the Board of Appeal try to represent themselves or they hire a lawyer who is not familiar with how the Board of Appeal operates. Either of these actions can result in the Board voting to affirm the Registry’s decision, without providing a re-apply date. This means that the appellant cannot appear before the Board of Appeal again without getting permission in advance and in most cases, he or she must serve out the license suspension. Trying it on your own in front of the Board often results in a loss with no viable chance of appeal to the courts.
The Board’s decisions can be appealed to Superior Court pursuant to G.L. c. 30A § 14, the Massachusetts Administrative Procedures Act. However, to succeed, the appellant must prove that the Board’s decision was unconstitutional, not supported by substantial evidence, exceeded the Board’s authority, was arbitrary or capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. Given the tremendous discretion which the Board of Appeal has, it is next to impossible to win a superior court appeal of the Board’s denial of a hardship license. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, the Board’s decision regarding hardship licensing is final. It is for this reason that it is imperative to hire a lawyer who specializes in Massachusetts Board of Appeal cases. Trying to represent yourself or hiring the wrong lawyer may cost you your license.
In addition to hearing hardship license appeals, the Board of Appeal also hears other types of appeals from RMV decisions. For example, the Registry may have improperly suspended someone’s license or denied an applicant a driver’s license. The Board also hears appeals from inspection station owners who have had their inspection station licenses suspended. Many people have tried to unsuccessfully challenge the legal requirement to have an ignition interlock device in their vehicles. The Board summarily denies theses appeals, because the law requires the mandatory use of interlock devices for certain repeat offenders.
Most people are unaware of the Board of Appeal, its powers, and procedures. Most people only learn about the Board’s existence after being aggrieved by a decision of the Registry of Motor Vehicles. This lack of knowledge about the Board of Appeal and how it works may cause appellants to fail to adequately prepare their cases and not hire effective legal representation. These uninformed decisions can result in a negative outcome which is not easily reversed. The Board requires solid, credible, and properly presented evidence to support the requested action, whether it be the issuance of a hardship license or a reversal of a license suspension or revocation. By effectively presenting this type of evidence, you will dramatically increase your chances of getting back on the road legally.
Brian E. Simoneau is a Massachusetts Attorney who handles RMV matters including ignition interlock violations, suspended licenses, and hardship licenses. He represents clients before the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Massachusetts Board of Appeal. He is a recognized expert on Ignition Interlock Law. Visit his website at http://www.rmvlawyer.com.