Motor Vehicle Crimes Protect Your Future

Westwood Motor Vehicle Crimes Attorney

Defending Motor Vehicle Crimes in Norfolk County

Aside from the potential of imprisonment in jail or even state prison, one important way in which these crimes may affect your life could be loss of license or driving privileges. Many motor vehicle offenses carry mandatory license suspensions of periods from days to years. Being without a valid license to drive is a major hindrance on our lives. Because it is so difficult to live without the ability to drive, many people drive even without a valid license. This causes further negative consequences when caught, because it increases not only the criminal penalties, but also the amount of time the R.M.V. will suspend your license.

In some cases – but not all – you may apply for a hardship license which permits you to operate a motor vehicle during limited hours. These are available for limited purposes and permit travel only during limited hours.

Motor vehicle offenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Driving without a license.
  • Driving with a suspended license.
  • Operating with a suspended license.
  • Negligent operation of a motor vehicle.
  • Reckless operation of a motor vehicle.
  • Operating under the influence of alcohol (DUI/OUI).
  • Operating under the influence of drugs.
  • OUI Subsequent Offense (OUI 2nd Offense – OUI 5th Offense or more).
  • Operating to endanger another person.
  • Operating and committing vehicular homicide.
  • Operating an uninsured motor vehicle.
  • Operating an unregistered motor vehicle.
  • Leaving the scene of an accident.
  • Leaving the scene of an accident that caused property damage.
  • Leaving the scene of an accident that caused personal Injury.

Schedule your free phone consultation with a dedicated attorney at Eisenstadt & Krippendorf Group, LLP by filling out our confidential contact form or by dialing (617)523-3500 today. Serving clients in Norfolk, Suffolk, Plymouth, Barnstable, Bristol, Essex & Middlesex Counties.

What Is the Court Process for Motor Vehicle Crimes?

In some cases, you may receive a summons to appear at a clerk’s hearing to determine whether there is probable cause for a criminal complaint to issue. That may be your first opportunity to make a defense and attempt to avoid being charged with a crime altogether.

If you are, in fact, charged with a motor vehicle offense, you may either be arrested or summonsed to court. The first step in the process after being charged is arraignment. This will typically take place at first in the district court. At the arraignment, you will be informed of the specific charges you are facing and will likely get preliminary reports of the facts supporting the charges.

Next, you will be subject to a bail hearing at which the court will determine whether you must post a bail to remain free pending the outcome of the case and, if so, how much that bail will be. At the bail hearing, you may also be ordered by the court to abide by certain conditions of release including prohibitions from driving or reporting to probation.

You will then be scheduled for a pre-trial hearing. In some instances, we have been able to have the charges dismissed at an arraignment stage. If the case does proceed to the pre-trial hearing, motions would be filed, and documents obtained. At that point, you may decide to resolve the case at a pre-trial or proceed to trial and present a defense to a judge or jury.

Penalties for Motor Vehicle Offenses

Some of the common penalties for motor vehicle offenses are:

  • Motor Vehicle Homicide = between 30 days and 2.5 years in the house of correction.
  • Motor Vehicle Homicide While Intoxicated = between 1 year and 2.5 years in the house of correction or 2.5 years and 15 years in state prison.
  • Negligent / Reckless Operation of a Motor Vehicle = imprisonment in the house of correction of 2 weeks to 2 years.
  • Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol / Drugs = up to 2.5 years in the house of correction (1st offense), between 60 days and 2.5 years in the house of correction (2nd offense), between 180 days in the house of correction and 5 years in state prison (3rd offense), between 2 years in the house of correction and 5 years in state prison (4th offense), between 2.5 years in the house of correction and 5 years in state prison (5th offense or more).
  • Leaving the Scene of an Accident = between 2 weeks and 2 years if no personal injury, between 6 months and 2 years if personal injury is caused, between 1 year in the house of correction and 10 years in state prison if a death is caused.
  • Receiving a Stolen Motor Vehicle = up to 2.5 years in the house of correction or up to 15 years in state prison.
  • Operating After Suspension of License = up to 10 days in the house of correction for first offense, between 60 days and 1 year for any subsequent offense.

A convicted offender may have their license suspended for a set period of time. There are many reasons the R.M.V. may suspend your license.

Some of the common reasons for a license suspension are:

  • Operating After Suspension of License – 30-day license loss
  • Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol / Drugs – 45-day license loss for 1st offense provided you take the driver’s alcohol program (210 days if under 21), 1 year loss (1st offense), 2 year loss (2nd offense), 8 year loss (3rd offense), 10 year loss (4th offense), lifetime loss (5th or more offense)
  • Drug Charges – convictions of drug offenses trigger license losses ranging between 1 year and 5 years depending on the crime.
  • 3 Speeding Tickets in Any 12-Month Period – 30-day license loss
  • Motor Vehicle Homicide – 15-year suspension
  • Chemical (Breath) Test Failure – 30-day suspension
  • Chemical (Breath)Test Refusal- For those 21 years old or older – 180 days (1st offense), 3 yrs (2nd offense), 5 yrs (3rd offense), & lifetime loss (4th of more offense). For those under 21 years old – 3 yrs (1st or 2nd offense), 5 yrs. (3rd offense), & lifetime loss (4th or more offense)
  • If you have a prior offense of Operating Under the Influence Causing Serious Bodily Injury – 10-year license loss.
  • If you have a prior offense of Motor Vehicle Homicide – lifetime loss.
  • Court Default – License suspension until warrant is cleared.
  • Non-Payment of Child Support or State Taxes – License suspension until paid in full.

Each of these elements have their own issues to deal with in court. The law has specific definitions of what constitutes “operation” or a “motor vehicle.” For example, you must perform certain functions in order to be “operating.” Proving that your license was suspended, at the time you were operating, is generally done by producing records from the R.M.V. showing when they had suspended or revoked your license. A major issue is proving that you had received notice that your license was suspended or revoked. There are many cases that discuss what does or does not qualify for this notice or how that notice is permitted to be proven in court.

Can I Fight a RMV License Suspension?

Yes. You have rights to appeal license suspension with the registry of motor vehicles and, in some cases, with the Superior Court. Some suspensions include an automatic right to a hearing but may have limitations on how soon you must file an appeal as well as limiting the reasons you can appeal the suspension. For example, if your license is suspended for refusing a breath test, you are entitled to a hearing, but you must appear within 15 days and you may only challenge (1) that there was not reasonable grounds for the arrest, (2) that you were not placed under arrest, or (3) you did not refuse the breath test.

Suspensions may also be appealed to a hearing officer at designated R.M.V. branches. If your appeal is denied, you may then appeal to the R.M.V. Board of Appeals. If the Board of Appeals denies you, and you believe that they are abusing their discretion, you may file an appeal with the Superior Court and request that they review the R.M.V’s reasoning.

Operating Under the Influence OUI /DUI in Westwood

The area of law governing operating or driving under the influence of alcohol is an extremely complicated one with many statues, rules and court cases which define the law and methods of proof as well as the penalties for violations. In general, operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or greater constitutes a violation of the criminal laws.

Courts break this crime down into three main elements:

  • Operating a motor vehicle.
  • On a “public way”.
  • Being under the influence of intoxicating liquor or having a blood alcohol content (B.A.C.) of greater than .08 percent.

While this may appear to be a simple crime to describe, each of the elements can be the subject of much discussion. What constitutes “operation?” How do you define a “public way?” When is someone “under the influence?” The court considers you “under the influence” if you have “consumed enough alcohol so as to reduce your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle by decreasing your alertness, judgment and ability or to respond promptly.”

Of course, evidence that your B.A.C. was over .08 percent constitutes this element of the crime. In other words, if you are operating on a public way and your blood alcohol content is greater than .08 percent, it does not matter how good or bad your driving is, that is enough to satisfy the third element.

This “intoxication” element is most often the area that is attacked in court, but the others may also present issues. We regularly attack the breath test machines to exclude the results, as well as areas such as field sobriety tests. Proving that you were “operating” the vehicle sometimes also presents issues of proof.

Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle

Operating a motor vehicle so negligently that is poses a danger to the public is a criminal offense under Massachusetts law.

The prosecution must prove that you:

  • Operated a motor vehicle.
  • You did so on a public way.
  • In a negligent manner so that the lives or safety of the public might have been endangered.

What constitutes operating in a “negligent manner” is often the most challenged issue in these cases. The courts state that “a person acts negligently when he fails to use due care, that is, when he acts in a way that a reasonable person would not act. This can happen either by doing something that a reasonably prudent person would not do under those circumstances, or by failing to do something that a reasonably prudent person would do.”

So, the courts tell us that in the context of negligent operation of a motor vehicle, one operates negligently if they drive “in a way that a reasonable person would not have, and by doing so created an unnecessary danger to other people, a danger that he could have avoided by driving more carefully.” It is not necessary for an accident to result from the driving. All the facts and circumstances must be evaluated under this rather subjective standard.

Leaving the Scene of an Accident

Leaving the scene of an accident without making known your name, address and plate number may be a crime if one of 3 things occurs as a result of the accident: property damage; personal injury; or death. Each crime carries penalties that are increasingly strict.

Each of these three discrete crimes are related in that the law is attempting to ensure that people whose property has been damaged or who have been injured are made immediately aware of accurate information about the other person involved in the accident.

Does My Driving Record Affect My Case?

Your driving record may affect your case in several ways. If your driving record contains sufficient “predicate” (underlying) offenses that are designated by law, a conviction in your new case may make you a “Habitual Traffic Offender.” It may also be impacted by the potential sentences for your given charge since a number of driving related offenses carry further license losses at part of the sentencing. Your driving record may also make resolving your case more difficult if you are viewed as a regular motor vehicle violator.

What Is a Habitual Traffic Offender & Can This Affect My Charges?

Convictions of a number of criminal offenses require notifications to be made to the R.M.V. You may be deemed a “Habitual Traffic Offender” (H.T.O.) by the R.M.V. after the accumulation of three or more designated offenses which involve motor vehicles.

Those offense include:

  • operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • reckless or negligent operation of a motor vehicle
  • operation of a motor vehicle after suspension of license
  • commission of a felony in which a motor vehicle is used
  • making false statements to apply for a permit or license
  • leaving the scene of an accident

Under these circumstances, the R.M.V. will suspend your license for a period of 4 years.

Your license may also be suspended as a Habitual Traffic Offender if, within any 5-year period you have 3 major moving violations or 12 major or minor moving violations. Your license will be suspended for 4 years. Once that suspension period has passed, you are required to take a full driver’s license exam.

If you are found to be driving while your license is suspended as a Habitual Traffic Offender, you are subject to criminal penalties which are more harsh than normal license suspensions. Here, you are now subject to up to a jail sentence of up to 2 years in the house of corrections, as opposed to the 30 day maximum sentence under the standard offense of operating on a suspended license.

How Do I Get My License Back?

Your license is controlled almost entirely by the Registry of Motor Vehicles (R.M.V.). While the court can order that your license be suspended for a period of time, when and how you get it back is directed by the R.M.V. In fact, the R.M.V. may suspend your license even when the court has not specifically ordered it in your case. That is why it is so important to know the potential license loss issues for your particular case.

In some limited cases, such as a not guilty finding in a case of operating under the influence of alcohol, your attorney may make a motion that the court order that the R.M.V reinstate your license. In other cases, you must file for a hearing before a hearings officer at the R.M.V. to request that your license be reinstated.

Getting your license “reinstated” once it has been suspended or revoked can require a combination of appeals to the R.M.V. and reviewing and revisiting court actions that may have caused the suspension in the first place. You may also be eligible to obtain a “hardship” license from the R.M.V., which will allow you to drive during certain hours to go to work or school.

Motor Vehicle Offenses and cases can be very serious and very complicated. You need attorneys who know how to determine whether the police had the right to stop your car, who can analyze documents from the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and who will ensure that the police followed all the dozens of steps and procedures that are required during your arrest. The attorneys at Eisenstadt & Krippendorf Group, LLP not only know what to look for in your motor vehicle case but have zealously litigated all of these important issues and more in court. Our attorneys are prepared to fight to make sure that your rights are protected.

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