Driving in Massachusetts is a privilege. It is not a right. You earn
driving privileges by passing a learner’s permit exam and a road
test. These tests prove that you can operate a motor vehicle safely
and within the law. Once you have earned your driver’s license, you
are responsible for your actions as a driver.
The RMV tracks your history as a driver. This is called your
driving record. It lists three types of events that can cause you
to lose your driving privileges:
•
•
•
Civil motor vehicle infractions
Criminal violations
Motor vehicle crashes where you are found to be more than 50
percent at fault
This chapter explains these three events. It also explains how the
law works and how to avoid losing your driving privileges.
45
CHAPTER 2
Keeping Your
License
The RMV must sometimes suspend or revoke your driver’s license. These situations are
described in this chapter. A suspension or revocation means that your driving privileges are
taken away. It can be for a specific amount of time or it can be indefinite. (See the License
Suspension or Revocation section later in this chapter.)
You cannot renew an expired license if you have unpaid parking violations, unpaid excise
taxes, outstanding court warrants, outstanding E-ZPass/Fast Lane violations, or Tobin
Bridge violations. (See the Reasons for License Nonrenewal section later in this chapter.)
Motor Vehicle Violations and Penalties
When you break a motor vehicle law, you may receive a citation. A citation may require you
to pay a fine, lose your driving privileges, appear in court, or go to jail. Major traffic law
violations are criminal offenses. Examples are driving while intoxicated or leaving the scene
of a crash. They carry strong penalties and could cause you to lose your license. You can
also lose your license by getting several traffic violations. These include driving above the
speed limit or failing to obey traffic signals.
Motor vehicle violations can be civil or criminal. The following sections explain the
differences between the two types. For many violations, the penalties may be stronger if
you have a Junior Operator’s License, you are under 21, you are a repeat offender, or you
are driving with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
Depending on the violation, you may get more than one penalty.
These may include a fine, loss of license, and/or a prison sentence.
Civil Motor Vehicle Infractions
Civil violations, such as not obeying traffic signals or speeding, are noncriminal. They can
usually be settled by paying fines. If you get a citation from a police officer for a civil motor
vehicle infraction (CMVI), you must pay the required fine or request a hearing to dispute it.
You have 20 days to do this. Every fine for a CMVI that comes from Chapter 89 or 90 of the
Massachusetts General Laws will have an added $5 public safety surcharge.
If you request a hearing, you must pay a $25 filing fee to the RMV. You can either send
your payment with the citation when you request a hearing, or you can pay online or by
mail when you receive a letter from the RMV indicating that you owe the fee.
If you do not respond to a citation within 20 days, you will be found responsible and
charged a large late fee. Failure to pay the citation and late fee will cause your license to be
suspended. When you pay a fine, you accept responsibility for that violation. Your driving
record will show responsibility if you pay the citation by mail, request a hearing and are
ordered by a court to pay the fine, or fail to respond to the citation within 20 days.
The RMV records all moving violations in Massachusetts on your driving record. Moving
violations can increase your motor vehicle insurance rate (see Chapter Six). They may also
cause your license to be suspended.
Parking violations are not CMVIs. They are handled by the city or town that issued the
citations or tickets. If you do not pay the violation, you will not be able to renew your driver’s
license or vehicle registration.
46
You can pay for moving violations using a credit card. Call the RMV Contact Center or visit the
RMV website at www.massrmv.com. Or you can mail the payment to:
RMV Citations - Processing Center, PO Box 55890, Boston, MA, 02205-5890
Speeding Violations
The beginning of Chapter Four explains the speed-limit laws in Massachusetts. The lowest
penalty for driving above the speed limit is a $105 fine. If you drive more than ten miles per
hour (mph) over the speed limit, you must pay an extra $10 for each mph you were traveling
above the first ten. For example, if you drive 73 mph on a highway with a posted speed limit of
55 mph, you would get a $185 dollar fine. By law, all fines for speeding violations include a
$50 surcharge. The entire surcharge goes to the Head Injury
Treatment Services Trust Fund.
Your Speed
73 mph
Speeding is often a factor in motor
Speed Limit
55 mph
vehicle crashes that cause serious head
18 mph over the limit
injuries. The Legislature created this trust
First 10 mph
$105
fund to treat people with head injuries.
Next 8 mph (8 x 10) = $80
An additional $5 public safety surcharge
$185 total fine
is also added to all speeding violations.
Work Zones
If you are caught speeding in a posted work zone, the speeding fine is doubled.
Your license will be suspended for 30 days if you are found guilty for three speeding violations in
a 12-month period. If you have a Junior Operator’s License, a 1st offense will cause a 90-day
license suspension. Further offenses will cause a one-year license suspension.
Criminal Violations
Criminal motor vehicle violations are serious offenses. If you commit a criminal motor vehicle
violation, you may be arrested immediately, your vehicle may be towed, your license may be
taken away, and you may be sent to jail until you go to court. If you are convicted of a
criminal motor vehicle offense, the court will set any fine or prison term.
Criminal motor vehicle offenses include driving with a suspended license, operating under the
influence (OUI), and leaving the scene of a crash. The License Suspension or Revocation
section of this chapter has tables that list the penalties for many criminal motor vehicle offenses.
A police officer may arrest you and you may face criminal charges if you refuse to…
• Give your name and address
• Give the name and address of the person who owns the vehicle
• Show your driver’s license
• Show a valid registration certificate for the vehicle
• Sign your name in front of the officer
Out-of-State Violations
Massachusetts shares driving-record and criminal-violation information with other states.
47
Some traffic offenses from other states will be on your driving record.
They will be treated by the RMV like they happened in Massachusetts.
Out-of-state violations can cause your license to be suspended. They can also cause your
automobile insurance cost to go up. If you are suspended or revoked in another state, your
Massachusetts license will be suspended automatically.
At-Fault Accidents
Your driving record is also affected if you are at fault in a motor vehicle accident. You are
more than 50 percent at fault for an accident if your insurance company...
1. Finds you at fault according to one of the 19 Standards of Fault. These are listed at the
end of Chapter Six. One example is causing an accident while driving on the wrong
side of the road. Another example is crashing into another vehicle from behind.
and
2. Has paid more than $500 for collision, limited collision, or damage to someone else’s
property or has paid more than $500 for bodily injury (if there is no collision or damage
to someone else’s property over $500 from the same incident).
All at-fault accidents you are charged with are listed on your driving record. At-fault
accidents and motor vehicle violations count toward possible license suspension.
Surchargeable Events
Motor vehicle violations and at-fault accidents are called surchargeable events. Each
surchargeable event counts toward a possible license suspension. Most out-of-state traffic
convictions count as if they took place in Massachusetts.
If you are found guilty for three speeding violations within a 12-month period, your
license will be suspended automatically for 30 days. The 12-month period starts
when you either pay or are found guilty for the first citation.
A Junior Operator license (for drivers under age 18) will be suspended for 90 days
for a first speeding citation and one year for any later citation. For a first drag racing
citation, a Junior Operator license will be suspended for one year. A later drag racing
citation will cause a three year suspension.
If you have three surchargeable events within a two-year period, your license may be
suspended. The RMV will send you a letter telling you to complete a Driver Retraining
course (see the next section). You must complete the retraining course within 90 days or
your license will be suspended until you complete the course.
If you have seven surchargeable events within a three-year period, your license will
be suspended automatically for 60 days.
Surchargeable events also affect your motor vehicle insurance. The Merit Rating Board
runs the Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP). Under SDIP, your insurance premium is
determined by your driving record. If you are a safe driver, your rate may go down. Your
rate will increase if you are convicted of moving violations, or if you are more than 50
percent at fault in an accident (see Chapter Six for more information).
48
Driver Retraining Course
If you get three or more surchargeable events on your driving record within a two-year period,
you must complete the Massachusetts Driver Retraining Course. If you do not, your license
will be suspended. This course does not teach driving skills. It helps you learn to change your
driving behavior.
To enroll in a Driver Retraining course, call the National Safety Council at 1-800-215-1581.
After you are told by the RMV that you have three or more surchargeable events, you will
be sent a driver retraining information packet. This packet has information about the course,
the fees, and how to enroll. The eight-hour retraining program is held at many locations
throughout the state. It is two four-hour sessions. However, one eight-hour Saturday
session may be available in your area.
Completing the Driver Retraining course does not remove offenses or surcharges from your
driving record. It also does not replace any other requirements. For example, if you were
convicted of drunk driving, you may also have to complete an alcohol treatment or
education program.
Driving Records
An attested copy of a Massachusetts Public Driving Record is suitable for official purposes
and is stamped to indicate it is an authentic RMV document. An attested copy of a driving
record can be issued in all RMV Service Centers, by phone, by mail, or by the Court Records
Department at 136 Blackstone Street, Boston MA. The cost of an attested driving record is
$20. You can pay this by check, money order, or cash in a service center, or by VISA,
MasterCard, Discover, or American Express over the Internet or by phone. To order by phone,
call the RMV Contact Center. To order by mail, send a written request with your name, date of
birth, driver’s license number, Massachusetts address, and check or money order to the
address below. If you do not need the driving record to be attested, you can order an
unattested driving record for $6 (this option is only available over the Internet).
Checks or money orders must be payable to MassDOT. Make sure your name, address, and
driver’s license number are printed on your check. If you live out of state, please indicate
where you want your driving record mailed.
In fall of 2016, sections of Chapter 64 of the Acts of 2016 took effect limiting the public release
of certain drug offense information, as well as expired warrant and child support information,
that previously displayed on Public Driving Records. For information on accessing an RMV
document containing these offenses, call Court Records at 857-368-8195 or visit Court
Records in-person at the Haymarket RMV Service Center, 136 Blackstone Street, Boston MA.
All fees are subject to change at any time.
Driver Control/ Court Records, Registry of Motor Vehicles, P.O. Box 55896 Boston, MA 02205-5896
If you order a driving record by mail or phone, it may take ten business days to get it.
49
Mandatory License Suspensions (18 Years and Older)
Situation
Explanation
Suspension Period
Fee to Reinstate
Three Speeding
Violations
Three speeding violations/ responsible
findings within any one-year period.
30 days
$100
Three
Surchargeable
Events
Any combination of moving violations
and surchargeable accidents that total
three surchargeable events within a
two-year period.
Must complete Driver Retraining
course within 90 days or license
will be suspended indefinitely until
course is completed
$100
Seven
Surchargeable
Events
Any combination of moving violations
and surchargeable accidents that total
seven surchargeable events within a
three-year period.
60 days
$100
Habitual Traffic
Offender
A total of three major moving violations
or any combination of twelve major or
minor moving violations within a five-year
period.
Four years
$500
Out-of-State
Suspension
License has been suspended or revoked
in another state.
Until the out-of-state suspension
is resolved
$100
License Suspension or Revocation
The Registrar of Motor Vehicles can suspend or revoke your driver’s license. This can be
done by Massachusetts law or when you are seen as a threat to public safety. Some motor
vehicle violations require your license to be suspended or revoked immediately. Your
license can also be suspended or revoked if you commit a number of moving violations or if
you are at fault in a number of accidents.
Reasons for License Suspension
The Registrar must sometimes suspend or revoke a driver’s license. The charts in this
section show when a suspension is mandatory. The Registrar can also choose to suspend
or revoke a license in the following cases:
•
•
•
Immediate threat — If the Registrar believes that your driving is an immediate threat to
public safety, he/she can suspend your learner’s permit or driver’s license immediately.
Improper operation — If you have operated a motor vehicle improperly, the Registrar
can suspend your driving privileges.
Fake ID — Even if you are not convicted, the Registrar can suspend your driving
privileges for six months (or one year after a conviction) for the following offenses:
• Transferring, altering, or defacing a license/ID
• Making, using, carrying, selling, or distributing a false license/ID
• Using somebody else’s license/ID
• Furnishing false information to obtain a license/ID
50
Other Reasons for License Suspensions
Since a driver’s license is a privilege and not a right, the Registrar is also required by law to
suspend a driver's license for some reasons not related to driving. For example, your license will
be suspended if you:
• Have failed to pay required child support
• Have an outstanding arrest or default warrant
• Have failed to register as a sex offender
• Have been convicted of certain drug trafficking offenses
• Have failed to pay Massachusetts income tax
• Have made a bad payment to the RMV (for example, you paid with a check that was later
rejected or you paid with a credit card and later canceled the payment with the bank)
If your license was suspended for a bad payment, you must pay the original fee, a license
reinstatement fee, and a $15 fee to clear your bad payment. You can pay at any RMV Full Service
Center. You must either use cash or a certified bank check payable to MassDOT.
If you have questions about...
•
•
Child support, contact the Department of Revenue’s Child Support Office at 1-800-332-2733.
Registering as a sex offender, contact the Sex Offender Registry Board at 978-740-6503.
Out-of-State Suspensions
Out-of-state suspensions or revocations affect your Massachusetts license. Your license
will be suspended in Massachusetts until any out-of-state suspension or revocation is
cleared. When your license is reinstated in the other state, you must bring either a
reinstatement letter or a current driving record from that state to any RMV Full Service
Center. You may also need to give additional information. Your reinstatement letter or
driving record cannot be over 30 days old.
Each U.S. state must tell the Massachusetts RMV about any traffic offenses you commit
there. These offenses will be treated as if they happened in
Massachusetts if they are a “like” offense.
To determine a "like" offense, the RMV will look at what the other state's law prohibits. It does not
matter if the other state chose to assess a higher or lower penalty, or treat the offense as a civil or
criminal infraction.
The RMV must apply Massachusetts suspension rules to out-of-state violations, even if the offense
did not cause a suspension in the other state.
When Your License Is Suspended or Revoked. . .
If the RMV suspends or revokes your driver’s license, you must stop driving immediately.
You have lost your driving privileges. It is illegal for you to operate any motor vehicle.
Driving Without a License
It is illegal to drive in Massachusetts without a valid driver’s license or permit.
Driving With a Suspended License
If your license or permit has been suspended or revoked for any reason, it is not valid. You
are not allowed to drive in Massachusetts or anywhere else. Driving with a suspended
or revoked license is a criminal motor vehicle violation. You may face a
large fine and/or jail sentence, as well as additional penalties.
51
Mandatory PERMIT Suspensions
Junior Operators Only (16 1/2 to 18 years)
Violation
Suspension Period
Conviction for
Driving Without a
Licensed
Driver (c. 90, §8B)
60 days— first offense
180 days— second
offense
One year—
subsequent offenses
All offenses require you to retake
the learner’s permit exam.
Second offense requires a Driver
Attitudinal Retraining course.
$100
Conviction for
Driving
During the Night
Restriction
60 days— first offense
180 days— second
offense
One year—
subsequent offenses
All offenses require you to retake
the learner’s permit exam.
Second offense requires a Driver
Attitudinal Retraining course.
$100
Conviction
for Speeding
90 days— first offense
One year— second or
subsequent offense
All offenses require a new learner’s
permit exam.
$100
Conviction for
Drag
Racing
One year— first
offense
Three years— second
or subsequent offense
All offenses require a new learner’s
permit exam and a Driver Attitudinal Retraining course. In addition,
you may be required to take a
State Courts Against Road Rage
(SCARR) course.*
$500-first
offense
$1000second or
subsequent
offense
Conviction for the
Use of a Mobile
Electronic Device
(text or phone)
60 days— first offense
180 days— second
offense
One year—
subsequent offenses
First offense requires a $100 fine, a
new learner’s permit exam, and a
Driver Attitudinal Retraining Course.
The fine is $250 for a second
offense and $500 for a third offense.
$100
Conviction
for Negligent
Operation and Injury from Mobile
Phone Use
180 days—- first
offense
One year— second or
subsequent offense
Second and subsequent offenses
$500
require a new learner’s permit exam.
(c. 90, §10)
(c. 90, §8B)
(c. 90, §17)
(c. 90, §17A)
(c. 90, §18)
(c. 90, §17B)
(c. 90, §8M)
Reinstatement Requirements
Fee to
Reinstate
(c. 90, §24)
Note: In addition to any other penalty required by law, Massachusetts General Laws chapter 90, section
24p requires that any Junior Operator who is convicted of Operating Under the Influence (OUI), Operating
to Endanger, Leaving the Scene of a Crash, Drinking from an Open Alcohol Container, OUI with Serious
Bodily Injury, Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle, Reckless/Negligent Operation, Loaning/ Allowing Another
to Use Your License or Learner’s Permit, or Motor Vehicle Homicide will face a 180 day suspension (in
addition to any other suspension required by law) for a first offense, or a one year suspension for any
subsequent offense. This additional suspension only applies to Junior Operators, and only in cases in
which they did not already receive an additional suspension for failing or refusing a breath test.
In addition to the penalties listed, your parent or guardian will be notified of the suspension.
52
Mandatory LICENSE Suspensions
Junior Operators Only (16 1/2 to 18 years)
Violation
Suspension
Period
Conviction for
Violating the
Passenger or Night
Restriction
60 days— first offense
180 days— second
offense
One year—
subsequent offenses
Second and subsequent offenses require a
Driver Attitudinal Retraining course.
Third and subsequent offenses require a
new learner’s permit and road exam.
$100
Conviction
for Speeding
90 days— first offense
One year— second or
subsequent offense
All offenses require a new learner’s permit
exam, a Driver Attitudinal Retraining course,
and a new road test. In addition, you may be
required to take a State Courts Against Road
Rage (SCARR) course.*
$500
Conviction for Drag
Racing
One year— first
offense
Three years— second
or subsequent offense
All offenses require a new learner’s permit
exam, a Driver Attitudinal Retraining course,
and a new road test. In addition, you may be
required to take a State Courts Against Road
Rage (SCARR) course.*
$500-first
offense
$1000-second
or subsequent
offense
Conviction for
Driving
Negligently or
Recklessly/
Operating to
Endanger
180 days— first
offense
One year— second or
subsequent offense
(within a three year
period)
Second and subsequent offenses require a
new learner’s permit exam and a new road
test.
$500
Conviction for the
Use of a Mobile
Electronic Device
(text or phone)
60 days— first offense
180 days— second
offense
One year—
subsequent offenses
First offense requires a $100 fine, a new
learner’s permit exam, a Driver Attitudinal
Retraining Course, and a new road test. The
fine is $250 for a second offense and $500
for a third offense.
$100
Conviction for
Negligent Operation and Injury from
Mobile Phone Use
180 days— first
offense
One year— second or
subsequent offense
Second and subsequent offenses require a
new learner’s permit exam and a new road
test.
$500
(c. 90, §8) (c. 90, §10)
(c. 90, §17)
(c. 90, §17A)
(c. 90, §18)
(c. 90, §17B)
Reinstatement Requirements
Fee to
Reinstate
(c. 90, §24)
(c. 90, §8M)
(c. 90, §24)
Note: In addition to any other penalty required by law, Massachusetts General Laws chapter 90, section
24p requires that any Junior Operator who is convicted of Operating Under the Influence (OUI), Operating
to Endanger, Leaving the Scene of a Crash, Drinking from an Open Alcohol Container, OUI with Serious
Bodily Injury, Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle, Reckless/Negligent Operation, Loaning/Allowing Another
to Use Your License or Learner’s Permit, or Motor Vehicle Homicide will face a 180 day suspension (in
addition to any other suspension required by law) for a first offense, or a one year suspension for any
subsequent offense. This additional suspension only applies to Junior Operators, and only in cases in
which they did not already receive an additional suspension for failing or refusing a breath test.
*A Massachusetts JOL License or Permit holder that commits certain categories of motor vehicle violations
is required under law to complete the SCARR program. Drivers may also be mandated to complete SCARR
as assigned by a specific court. A Junior Operator will only be required to take the SCARR course one time.
Visit www.massrmv.com for more information.
53
For more information on, or to register for, a Driver Attitudinal Retraining course or a State Courts
Against Road Rage (SCARR) course, visit www.massrmv.com and click on “Teens and Parents.”
Criminal Offenses and Suspensions
Criminal Conviction
Suspension
Period
Fee to
Reinstate
Operating a motor vehicle with a suspended or revoked license
60 days–One year
$500
Operating a motor vehicle without the owner’s authority / larceny of a motor
vehicle
One–Three years
$500
Leaving the scene of a crash when a person is injured
One–Two years
$500
Leaving the scene of a crash involving property damage
60 days–One year
$500
Operating to endanger
60 days–One year
$500
Motor vehicle homicide
15 years–Lifetime
$500
Vehicular manslaughter
15 years–Lifetime
$500
One year (first)
Two years (second)
Eight years (third)
Ten years (fourth)
Lifetime (fifth)
$500 (first)
$700 (second)
$1200 (third)
$1200 (fourth)
N/A
One–Five years
$100
Defacing real or personal property, spraying paint or applying stickers or
other graffiti (Operation of a vehicle is not required)
One year (or delay
of one year in obtaining a License)
$100
Drag racing (by drivers over the age of 18)
30 days-180 days
$500 - $1,000
Negligent Operation and Injury from Mobile Phone Use
60 days–One year
$500
Operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Any drug trafficking related conviction (except a Class D substance)
(Operation of a vehicle is not required)
Many of the offenses in the chart above may also require you to serve time in jail.
Additional suspension periods will apply to many of the offenses in the chart above when Junior
Operators commit them and alcohol or drugs are involved. For more information, see the Under 21
Alcohol Offenses section later in this chapter.
Customers serving a mandatory suspension for certain drug trafficking offenses may seek a
hardship license at any time during their suspension period.
License Reinstatement
To reinstate your driver’s license or right to operate a motor vehicle, you may need a
hearing. You have the right to a hearing with a Hearings Officer. Hearings are held on a
walk-in basis, unless your notice lists a certain date, time, and place. Walk-in hearing hours
are 9:00am to 5:00pm (Mon, Tue, Wed, and Fri) and 10:00am to 5:00pm (Thurs). Hearing
hours will change July, 2017. Please see www.massrmv.com for current hours.
54
Full Time Hearings Locations (Monday through Friday, excluding holidays): Boston,
Braintree, Fall River, Lawrence, Springfield, Wilmington, and Worcester.
Part Time Hearings Locations (selected days): Pittsfield (Wed) and South Yarmouth
(Mon/Tues).
Note: Hearings days or locations are subject to change without notice. Please check
www.massrmv.com to see if hearings are currently available at the RMV Service Center you
wish to visit. If a hearing cannot be held there, the service center staff can tell you where to
go for a hearing.
At your hearing, the Hearings Officer will review your case. This will include your driving
record and all laws and regulations that apply. Most suspensions are mandatory, and the
hearing is only about whether the law is being applied correctly.
Once you have been found guilty or responsible, the facts of the case are not important.
The Hearings Officer will not be able to prevent a valid suspension. The Hearings Officer
may take up to ten business days before making a decision.
You must pay a fee to reinstate a suspended or revoked license. Most fees are $100.
Fees for suspensions caused by serious offenses may be as high as $1,200.
For license suspensions of two years or more, you must also pass a learner’s permit
exam and road test to reinstate your license. You must give four forms of identification to
take a learner’s permit exam and road test (see Identification Requirements section of
Chapter One).
All fees are subject to change at any time.
Alcohol, Drugs, and Driving
The facts are simple. You cannot drive safely after drinking alcohol or taking other drugs.
Alcohol is a drug. It is a depressant that affects your vision, reaction time, coordination, and
judgment. Even small amounts of alcohol or other drugs can lower the mental and physical
abilities you need to drive safely. This includes some over-the-counter medicines. You do
not have to be drunk or completely intoxicated to be a dangerous driver.
Safety must always be your first responsibility. If you take any substance that affects your
awareness and your reflexes, you are no longer safe to drive.
Each year in the United States, alcohol causes nearly 40% of all highway deaths. This does
not include the thousands of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians who are seriously hurt or
permanently disabled. It does not include the millions of dollars of damage. It does not
include the tragedies that friends and families must face. All of this is caused by drivers
operating under the influence (OUI) of alcohol or drugs.
Because driving under the influence is so dangerous, Massachusetts has very strong penalties
for OUI violations. The chart on the next page shows the penalties for each OUI conviction.
Alcohol
Whether it’s beer, wine, or hard liquor, alcohol is a depressant. It slows your reflexes,
55
Penalties for Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
Conviction
First Offense
Fine
$500–$5,000
Prison Term
License Suspension
Maximum 21/2 years
One Year
For your first offense, the court may allow you to complete an alcohol education
course to reduce your license suspension period.
Minimum 30 days
Maximum 21/2 years
Two years
Third Offense (Felony) $1,000–$15,000
Minimum 150 days
Maximum Five years
Eight years
Fourth Offense
(Felony)
$1,500–$25,000
Minimum One year
Maximum Five years
Ten years
Fifth Offense
(Felony)
$2,000–$50,000
Minimum Two years
Maximum Five years
Lifetime
Second Offense
$600–$10,000
Over 21,
45–90 days,
Under 21,
210 days
increases the time you need to react, and distorts your vision and
judgment. Alcohol also often makes you feel more confident. This can cause you to take
chances while driving that you normally wouldn’t take. This is a dangerous combination that
often leads to serious motor vehicle crashes and tragic deaths.
In addition to the fines listed in this chart, you will have to pay any RMV reinstatement fees before
you can get your license back.
Even one alcoholic drink in an hour can affect your driving. It can be much worse if you are
tired, emotionally upset, or haven’t eaten. No one is immune to alcohol. After drinking, your
ability to drive safely is impaired. It does not matter how much you try to be careful or
concentrate. There is still a drug inside your body affecting you physically and mentally.
Blood Alcohol Content
When you drink alcohol, your body works hard to remove it from your system. You do not
digest alcohol as you do food. Alcohol is processed by your liver and kidneys. This takes
time. There is no quick way to sober up or to get the alcohol out of your body. Drinking black
coffee, taking a cold shower, exercising, or eating might make you feel more alert after
drinking alcohol. However, none of these actions affect how quickly alcohol leaves your body.
Ideally, if you have any alcoholic beverage, you should not drive. Knowing what is “too much”
alcohol can be difficult. The amount of unprocessed alcohol in your body is measured as
blood alcohol content (BAC). This can be measured by a blood or a breath test.
Your BAC depends on several factors:
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License Suspension Periods for Failed Chemical Tests
All drivers will fail a chemical test if they have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08 or greater. Drivers under
21 have the same standard for criminal purposes, but will face administrative sanctions for tests with a BAC as
low as .02.
AGE
LICENSE SUSPENSION
Drivers over age 21
License is suspended for 30 days or until the conclusion of the court
case, whichever is shorter. The suspension will end if the case is concluded either before or during the 30-day period. If the court finds you
guilty, you will then face whatever sanctions ordered by the court.
Drivers age 18 to 21
License is suspended for 30 days, plus an additional 180 days, pursuant
to MGL c.90, s. 24P. If this is your first operating under the influence
case, the 180-day suspension can be waived upon entry into a Department of Public Health (DPH) approved alcohol education program.
Drivers under age 18
License is suspended for 30 days, plus an additional one year, pursuant
to MGL c.90, s. 24P. If this is your first operating under the influence
case, the one-year suspension can be reduced to 180 days upon entry
into a Department of Public Health (DPH) approved alcohol education
program.
Note: The additional 180-day or one-year suspension for drivers under age 21 is designed to get youths
charged with operating under the influence, or with having a BAC of .02 or higher, to undergo alcohol education. It does not matter what happens with your court case. Even if you win the case, it will not change
the requirement for you to take the alcohol education course.
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Your body weight
How much alcohol you had to drink
The amount of food you ate before drinking
The length of time you have been drinking alcohol
The speed your body processes alcohol (everyone processes alcohol differently)
The kind of beverage you drink does not matter. What is important is the amount of alcohol
you drink over a period of time. Each of the following drinks contain about the
same amount of alcohol (about 1/2 ounce) (source: National Institutes of Health):
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12 ounce beer
Five ounce glass of wine
One and a half ounce serving of 80-proof liquor (even if mixed with a soft drink)
Any one of these drinks can raise an average person’s BAC by 0.02. If you have more than
one drink in an hour, your BAC will rise. Only time will rid you of the effects of alcohol.
Alcohol Tests
Massachusetts has an Implied Consent Law. Every licensed driver in the state must agree
to consent to a breathalyzer or blood test in certain cases. If a police officer believes you
are operating under the influence of alcohol, he/she has the right to ask you to...
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Perform a field sobriety test
Submit to a breathalyzer or blood test to calculate your BAC, if you have been arrested
You are operating above the legal limit if you have a BAC of 0.08 or higher. Massachusetts has a “zerotolerance” law for drivers under 21. Any driver under 21 will face penalties for having a BAC of .02 or higher.
If your BAC is above the legal limit OR if you refuse a breathalyzer or blood test, the
police officer must take away your license. You will be given a notice of suspension, which
is effective immediately. See the charts on pages 57 and 59 for the suspension periods.
Under-21 Alcohol Offenses
Drivers under age 21 are twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in alcoholrelated crashes. This is one reason why laws are stronger for under-21 drivers.
Massachusetts has a “zero-tolerance” law. If you are under 21 and are caught with a BAC
as low as 0.02 while driving, you will lose your license.
Ignition Interlock Devices
If you had two or more operating under the influence offenses and are
eligible for a hardship license or for license reinstatement, you must have an Ignition
Interlock Device. It must be attached to your motor vehicle at your expense.
If you get a hardship license, you must use the device the entire time you have the
hardship license. You must keep using the device for two more years after
your license has been reinstated.
If your license is eligible for reinstatement, the device is required for two years.
This two-year period is mandatory (even if you used the device with a hardship license). If
you don’t have the device installed, your license will not be reinstated. If you do not obey
the Ignition Interlock Law, your license will be revoked and suspended for ten years to life.
The RMV strongly recommends that you arrive prior to 4:00 pm for an Ignition Interlock Device hearing.
The RMV provides a list of vendors who install the device. Once it is installed, you must
pass a breath test before starting the vehicle. A blood alcohol reading greater than .02 will
prevent the vehicle from starting. Every 30 days, you must return to the vendor for a service
visit. The vendor will upload and transfer data from the device to the RMV. This law protects
both the public and the driver. Most states now use this technology.
A $30 RMV fee (in addition to the device distributor fees) must be paid at each service visit
for the entire time a driver is required to have the Ignition Interlock Device. This fee is per
driver, not per vehicle.
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License Suspension Periods for Refusing a Chemical Test
Note: For this table, a prior operating under the influence (OUI) offense refers to a court conviction for
OUI or a court-ordered assignment to an alcohol education program. Chemical test refusals do not count
as prior OUI offenses.
AGE
Drivers over age 21
Drivers age 18 to 21
LICENSE SUSPENSION
No Prior OUI Offenses
180 days
One Prior OUI Offense
Three years
Two Prior OUI Offenses
Five years
Three or More Prior OUI Offenses
Lifetime
No Prior OUI Offenses
Three years + 180 days
One Prior OUI Offense
Three years + 180 days
Two Prior OUI Offenses
Five years + 180 days
Three or More Prior OUI Offenses
Lifetime
Note: The additional 180-day suspension for drivers under age 21 is designed to get youths charged with
OUI who refuse a chemical test to undergo alcohol education. It does not matter what happens with your
court case. Even if you win the case, it will not change the requirement for you to take an alcohol
education course. If this is your first OUI case, the 180-day suspension can be waived upon entry into a
Department of Public Health (DPH) approved alcohol education program.
Drivers under age 18
No Prior OUI Offenses
Three years + One year
One Prior OUI Offense
Three years + One year
Two Prior OUI Offenses
Five years + One year
Three or More Prior OUI Offenses
Lifetime
Note: The additional one-year suspension for drivers under age 18 is designed to get youths charged with
OUI who refuse a chemical test to undergo alcohol education. It does not matter what happens with your
court case. Even if you win the case, it will not change the requirement for you to take an alcohol
education course. If this is your first OUI case, the one-year suspension can be reduced to 180 days
upon entry into a Department of Public Health (DPH) approved alcohol education program.
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Buying, Possessing, or Transporting Alcohol
If you are under 21, it is illegal to...
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Buy alcohol or have someone buy it for you
Possess, carry, or transport alcohol unless accompanied by a parent or guardian
Your license will be suspended for 90 days to one year for breaking either of these laws.
There are also fines and other penalties. If you are under 21 and you buy, or try
to buy, alcohol, your license will be suspended for 180 days.
Open Container Law
You may not drink alcohol while driving. You may not have an open alcoholic drink inside
your vehicle, even if someone else is holding it. If you are convicted of this offense, you will
be fined $100 to $500. If you are under 21, you will be arrested, fined, and your license will
be suspended.
False or Altered Licenses/Identification Cards
It is illegal to use a false license or ID, to alter a license or ID, or to use another person’s
license or ID. It is also illegal to use false information to obtain a license or ID. In most
cases, these are felonies with serious penalties. You can face penalties even if you do not
attempt to purchase alcohol. M.G.L.c.90,§22(e) allows the RMV to suspend your
license or right to operate in Massachusetts for up to six months. A
conviction is not required. If you are convicted, your license will be suspended
for one year.
Please be aware that purchasing false licenses or IDs through the Internet is dangerous and
often results in identity theft.
Illegal Drugs, Medicine, and Other Controlled Substances
Laws for operating under the influence of alcohol also apply to drugs. Almost any drug can
affect your driving skills. Illegal drugs, prescription medicines, and over-the-counter
medicines can all make it dangerous to drive.
Marijuana
Smoking or eating marijuana makes it more difficult to respond to sights and sounds. This
makes you dangerous as a driver. It lowers your ability to handle a quick series of tasks.
The most serious problem is facing an unexpected event, such as a car coming from a side
street or a child running out from between parked cars. These problems get worse after
dark, because marijuana also causes a bad loss of night vision.
Massachusetts law has decriminalized certain aspects of possession and/or use of
marijuana. However, operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of
marijuana is still illegal!
It is very important for all drivers of any age to note that operating a motor vehicle
while under the influence of marijuana remains a criminal offense.
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The chart “Penalties for Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol or
Drugs” in this chapter STILL APPLIES TO MARIJUANA and should be reviewed
carefully.
Other Drugs
Many other drugs and controlled substances can decrease your ability to drive:
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Illegal hard drugs, like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), heroin, and opium, make you
feel unaware of where you are. You also feel like you don’t care.
Prescription sedatives and tranquilizers make you drowsy. This makes you a dangerous
driver.
Most medicines taken for colds, hay fever, or headaches can make you drowsy. Pain
killers and medicines with codeine can be very dangerous.
You can be considered OUI with prescription drugs. It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while
impaired by any substance.
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Stimulants like pep pills, speed, cocaine, and diet pills make you feel more awake and
aware for a short time. However, this is always followed by fatigue, nervousness,
dizziness, and a lack of concentration. They can also affect your vision.
Inhaling substances like solvents or glue vapors is a serious health risk. It can leave
you unable to operate a motor vehicle properly.
Make sure you read labels carefully and know the side effects of prescription or over-thecounter medicines. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you’re not sure.
Combining alcohol with other drugs dramatically increases the negative effects. Do
not mix alcohol, drugs, and driving. It’s a fatal mistake.
Reasons for License Nonrenewal
The RMV will refuse to renew your license if you have...
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Unpaid fines for parking violations
Citations for abandoned vehicles
Unpaid excise tax due to your local community
Outstanding court warrants
Unpaid Massachusetts, Maine, or New Hampshire E-ZPass/Fast Lane toll violations
Unpaid Tobin Bridge violations
Before renewing, you must present official release forms. They must show that all fines and
taxes have been paid to local communities or that outstanding warrants have been satisfied.
For an outstanding court warrant, a recall notice from the court is required. No other
documents will be accepted by the RMV.
Unpaid parking tickets and excise taxes must be paid to local cities and towns.
The RMV can only collect E-ZPass/Fast Lane violations that are 60 or more days delinquent.
This means that at least 60 days have passed since the date the violation was issued.
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For more information, call the E-ZPass Violation Processing Center at 1-877-627-7745.
Tobin Bridge violations issued by MassDOT can be paid by calling 617-561-6180 or at:
MassDOT Tobin Bridge Violations
145 Havre Street
East Boston, MA 02128
Tobin Bridge violations issued by MassPORT can be paid in-person at:
Terminal C
Lower Level
Logan International Airport
East Boston, MA 02128
Tobin Bridge violations can be paid by mail to:
Parking Violations
1 Harborside Drive
Suite 200S
East Boston, MA 02128
License Suspension
You cannot renew your license if it is suspended or revoked. See the License Suspension
or Revocation section of this chapter for more information.
The RMV cannot serve you until you have cleared all outstanding problems.
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