Appeals Court, January 7, 2014

In an operating after suspension case, the Commonwealth may introduce a certified docket sheet indicating a license suspension as part of the disposition to prove the element of notice.

The Commonwealth is not required to prove as an element of the crime of operating after suspension that a defendant had not been granted a hardship license.

After trial, the defendant was convicted of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license based on an underlying conviction for operating under the influence (OUI).  During the trial, to prove the defendant was notified of the license suspension, the Commonwealth introduced a certified copy of the criminal docket for the defendant’s underlying OUI offense.  Included in the certified docket sheet was a handwritten notation indicating “60 day license loss.”  The docket sheet also indicated that the defendant admitted to sufficient facts to warrant a finding of guilty on the OUI charge just 36 days prior to being pulled over and charged with operating with a suspended license for OUI; well within the 60 day time period of the suspension.

On appeal the defendant argued that his motion for a required finding of not guilty should have been allowed because the Commonwealth failed to prove that the defendant was on notice that his license was suspended, and that the Commonwealth was required and failed to prove that the Defendant had not been granted a hardship license.

Notice:

The defendant argues that introduction of the certified docket of his underlying OUI conviction was not enough to prove that he was put on notice of the 60 day license suspension.  The Court disagreed ruling that “where the defendant was present in court, tendered a plea, and received a disposition of his OUI charge consistent with G. L. c. 90, § 24D, the judge was well entitled to draw the reasonable, commonsense inference that the defendant was put on notice of the terms under which his case was resolved.”

Commonwealth’s failure to prove the defendant has been granted a hardship license:

The defendant claims that in addition to the three elements required to prove operating after suspension:  1) operation; 2) suspended license at time of offense; and 3) notice, that the Commonwealth is required to negate the possibility that the suspended operator's license has been restored by way of a hardship license.   The defendant relies on  the language of G.L. c. 90, § 23, which states: "Any person convicted of operating a motor vehicle after his license to operate has been suspended or revoked . . . and prior to the restoration of such license . . . shall be punished . . .." The Court disagreed with the defendant, “this language simply states the obvious: to be guilty of operating with a suspended license, the defendant must be shown to have operated a motor vehicle during the period when the suspension was in effect.”  The Commonwealth is not required to prove that a defendant had not been granted a hardship license in order for a defendant to be convicted of the crime of operating after suspension.