Appeals Court (February 1, 2007)

An individual cannot be charged with operating after suspension for a prior operating under the influence offense if that individual has been issued a hardship license by the Registry of Motor Vehicles, even if the individual is in violation of the terms of the hardship license.

The defendant's driver's license was suspended by the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) for eight years after his conviction for operating under the influence (OUI). Subsequently, the RMV issued the defendant a hardship license, which restricted his hours of operation to between 8 A.M. and 8 P.M.

On the night of arrest, an officer observed the defendant at 11:40 P.M. operating slowly, swerving, and with a flat rear tire. He pulled the defendant over and charged him with operating under the influence and operating a motor vehicle after the suspension of his license for OUI pursuant to G.L. c. 90, § 23.

G.L. c. 90, §23 reads, "[a]ny person convicted of operating a motor vehicle after his license to operate has been suspended or revoked" for operating under the influence " and prior to the restoration of such license or right to operate or to the issuance to him of a new license to operate." The defendant argued, and the trial judge agreed, that he could not be charged for a violation of § 23 because the RMV had issued him a new license, i.e. the hardship license. A statute is to be interpreted according to the plain and ordinary meaning of its words, and although a "new license" is not defined in § 23, the type of license granted - a hardship license - is described in G.L. c. 90, § 24 (1) (c) (3), as "a new license."