Hardship licenses in Massachusetts

Back in February 2007, I got my second OUI conviction.  In Massachusetts, if your driver’s license has been suspended for an OUI, you can apply for a “hardship license.”   If approved, a hardship license will allow you to drive before your suspension is up, subject to specific restrictions.  You are only allowed to drive during certain times of the day, usually just so you can get to work and back.

In order to apply for a hardship license, you need to appear in front of a RMV hearing officer.  You need to do a number of things before your hearing.  It can be difficult to find out exactly what you need to do, so recently I went into the Boston RMV office to ask. 

The person at the info booth in the lobby sent me to the Court Records department on the fourth floor.  When I arrived on the fourth floor, I was told to fill out a form and wait.  That’s only necessary if you want a hearing, but no one tells you that.  If you just want information, ask for it and if you’re lucky the person at the desk will give it to you.  I wasted a half hour waiting before I returned to the desk.  Once I did, the clerk confirmed that I would be eligible to apply for reinstatement on February 17, 2010 (2 years after my court date), and I was given a checklist which shows what I supposedly need to have before I can apply for a hardship license. 

I say “supposedly” because the first thing on the sheet is a statement saying that the requirements are subject to change at the RMV’s discretion.  So you won’t ever know if you really have what you need until you go to your hearing.  The list I was given is dated 1/1/06. 

  • There can be no evidence showing that you’ve driven since your license was suspended.
  • Enough time has to have passed since your conviction.  The form says one year for a second offense, but the clerk said only a 6 month wait is required.  It’s already been more than a year for me.
  • If your license has been suspended for any other reasons, those suspensions must be resolved.  Hardship license are only for OUI offenders.
  • You must have documentation to show that you have completed the appropriate treatment program (in my case, the 2 week DUIL program for second offenders). 
  • You must be in compliance with all court-ordered aftercare, and have a discharge summary or a progress review from the aftercare provider.
  • You must have documented proof of your compliance with your probation.
  • You must have documentation showing that a hardship for employment or education exists.
  • You need to document that there is no public transportation you can use to get to your destination. 
  • The official Board of Probation record gets checked and the driving record must be up to date (I guess the hearing officer does this).
  • The Ignition Interlock packet must be completed (whatever that is) and there has to be verification that an Ignition Interlock has been installed.

You need to have an ignition interlock installed before you apply for a hardship license.  These are not cheap, especially if you need to buy a car to put it in.  If your hardship application is denied, you’ve wasted a lot of money.

A lot of the documentation requirements aren’t very specific.  For example, you are somehow supposed to have documentation to prove that there is no public transportation.  How can you prove a negative like that?  The judgment of the hearing officer is clearly a critical factor in any application.

The Court Records department is where you go for your hearing.  Like anything else at the RMV, you show up, fill out a form, and wait for your turn for a hearing, however long that might be.  Bring a book. 

I don’t know if I’ll be applying for a hardship license.  It’s not clear if you’re unemployed like I am whether you can get a hardship license in order to look for work.  The only way to find out appears to be to apply for one and have a hearing.  If I don’t get the hardship license, I’ve spent a lot of money on a car and the blow-and-go.  Even if I do get the hardship license, there’s no guarantee that in this economy I’ll get a job that would make the extra expense worthwhile before 11 months pass and I’m eligible to get my license back.

If you do apply for a hardship license, good luck!  Come back and post a comment to let us know how it went.

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6 thoughts on “Hardship licenses in Massachusetts

  • Brian Simoneau

    You did an outstanding job listing the requirements for a hardship license. Regarding the interlock device, you will not have the interlock device installed unless and until the hearing officer grants you a hardship license. Once you fill out the interlock package, you will have the device installed and return to the Registry with proof of installation. The RMV will then issue you a license with restriction H (hours) and Z (interlock). Best of luck with your hearing!

  • Brian Simoneau

    Since you will hopefully be back on the road and using interlock, i thought I’d give you a word of caution regarding the device. Interlock devices are not very reliable. (I’m being kind). I know of countless cases where the device either malfunctioned or something other than alcohol in the user’s bloodstream registered as such.

    Here are 10 ways to prevent interlock violations.

  • gizmo

    Look Ive dealt with a 12 month period with that piece of s–t on my car. The “smart start device”. It tried to violate me 3 times the first month, even though it allowed a second start moments later. So I toasted it. I am an electrical engineer and seen many machines design failures. That one is a mess, pethetically engineered, unbelievable installation, which they connected it to the vehicles cam-bus system for a ground (lawsuit still in court for the repairs). So i found the yellow and red (B+) lead and fried it with 120 volts (house voltage). No more violation, for some reason it didnt work anymore:(. Then for the remainder of the time, I figured out what it likes. Take a coke plastic bottle, then install a light bulb in it (1156 automotive) a little water, airpump (1981 mercedes 300d for door locks) and a 5 dollar personal assistant recorder. One pair of ear phones. And bang your in business. The bulb heats the air, the water satisfies the fuel cell, and the pump runs the machine from a switch beneath the dash. The Humm comes from your own voice recorded on the assistant. Soo bang no more violations. I hate resorting to doing this but the way the system is set up to f–k the little guy and the machine is a piece of shit. If you need the design to this I will give it to you to f–k those assholes again. One last thing tell those MADD people to stop breaking the law with cell phone calls to their kids while driving. Rinmud@yahoo.com