In a recent Massachusetts Supreme Court decision, Alfred Tirado v. Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liability Policies and Bonds, the Court held that a continuance without a finding (CWOF) is a conviction funder G.L. c. 90F, section 1, which governs the licensure of commercial drivers. The decision essentially means that CDL holders who plea to an OUI will suffer the same license loss as those found guilty of the charge. The SJC’s decision in Tirado can be found here.
The case arose out of an Appeals Court decision vacating three Board of Appeals CDL suspensions where the drivers received CWOFs on OUI charges. The Appeals court held that a CWOF was not a conviction. The Board appealed and the Supreme Court overturned the Appeals Court’s decision. You can hear the oral arguments from the case on the Suffolk Law School Website.
The Supreme Court’s reasoning was based on the Federal Commercial Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 and the subsequent Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. The acts increased the range of offenses that could disqualify someone from maintaining a CDL and implored states to “unmask” dangerous commercial drivers. The regulations stated that practices allowing commercial drivers to enter diversion programs, “masked” convictions and allowed unsafe drivers to pose a risk to other motorists. Massachusetts adopted the 1986 Act in 1998 and amended it in 2006 to include an “anti-masking” provision.
The plaintiffs argued that a CWOF does not require an adjudication of guilt and therefore cannot be considered an admission of guilt or a conviction. The court dismissed the argument and instead held that a defendant’s admission to sufficient facts, accepted by a judge, is enough to show that the defendant violated or failed to comply with the law.
The court further reasoned that the language used in 90F; “to the extent that provisions of this chapter conflict with general licensing provisions this chapter prevails”, shows that the Legislature intended for the statute to be construed liberally.
This decision is an important one for anyone charged with an OUI that has a CDL. CDL holders should closely examine their case with an experienced attorney and consider taking their case to trial. Attorney DelSignore is a Massachusetts OUI Lawyer that has assisted CDL license holders avoid OUI convictions and maintain their eligibility to hold a CDL license.