Massachusetts license suspension for out-of-state DUI conviction affirmed by Massachusetts court

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles suspended the Massachusetts license of a resident based on a DUI conviction that occurred in Colorado. Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 22, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles can suspend the Massachusetts license of a resident for a conviction in another state that would result in a suspension if it occurred in Massachusetts, as long as the out-of-state statute is substantially similar to the equivalent Massachusetts OUI statute.

In the case of the Bresten v. Registry of Motor Vehicles, Bresten was convicted of driving while impaired in Colorado and required to pay a fine as a result of the conviction. The statute that the defendant was convicted did not carry with it a license loss. The Massachusetts RMV suspended the defendant’s license for one year as a result of the Colorado impaired driving conviction. The defendant ultimately received a hardship license from the Board of Appeals, but appealed the RMV’s determination that the Colorado impaired driving conviction is similar to the Massachusetts OUI statute.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the RMV license suspension decision, finding that the statutes were substantially similar.

The Colorado statute prohibited a defendant from operating a motor vehicle when to the slightest degree alcohol impaired the motorist’s ability to operate safely. Under Massachusetts OUI law, the Commonwealth has to prove that a defendant’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely is diminished by alcohol. Accordingly, the Colorado statute appears to require a lower standard of proof to support a conviction than under Massachusetts DUI law, a judge would misstate the law by defining impaired with the slightest degree definition used under the Colorado law. Further, the difference in the statute can be discerned with the lower potential penalty under the Colorado law.

In a case called, Commonwealth v. Connolly, 394 Mass. 169 (1985), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that a jury in a Massachusetts OUI trial should be instructed that alcohol must diminish a drivers ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. The SJC in Connolly found that the trial judge committed error of law in instructing the jury that a defendant could be convicted if alcohol impacted the defendant to a perceptible degree, or if alcohol made the defendant slightly light headed, or slightly depressed or slightly happier than the person would be in the absence of alcohol. Accordingly, the Colorado statute appeared to adopt a lower burden of proof that was rejected by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The opinion of the Appeals Court indicates that the court is taking a broad view of the definition of substantially similar in interpreting whether out of state convictions qualify for an in-state suspension. If you are convicted of a DUI in another state, the Massachusetts RMV will likely suspend your license as if the offense happened in Massachusetts.

If you are an out-of-state resident charged with a Massachusetts DUI, you should call Attorney DelSignore immediately as any conviction in Massachusetts is likely to be reported in your home state and result in a license suspension that could be equal to or greater than the suspension you incur in Massachusetts, depending on the DUI laws in your state. Michael DelSignore is a Massachusetts DUI lawyer, representing individuals throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including Stoughton, Quincy, Dedham and Worcester courts. If you are charged with a Massachusetts OUI offense, or face a license suspension from the RMV, call attorney DelSignore for a free consultation or send an email throughout this site.

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