Alcohol and drug suspensions for over 21 years of age

This section provides the Registry of Motor Vehicles' policies related to alcohol or drug suspensions/revocations for customers over the age of 21.

Table of Contents

Breathalyzer failure

If you are arrested for Operating Under the Influence (OUI), you will be asked to consent to a chemical test to determine your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). Massachusetts is an implied consent state. That means if you are arrested for OUI, you are deemed to have consented to a breathalyzer test. If you refuse to take the test, there is an administrative penalty in the form of a suspension.

If you are 21 years or older and register a BAC of 0.08% or greater, the RMV will suspend/revoke your learner's permit/driver's license or right to operate for 30 days in accordance with Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24(1)(f)(2) unless you are eligible for a 1st offender court disposition and your case has been resolved under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24D. The arresting officer will immediately:

  • Take custody of your learner's permit/driver's license (if issued by Massachusetts)
  • Provide you with a written notification of the suspension of your driver's license, effective immediately (no temporary driver's license will be issued)
  • Notify the RMV of the incident

The RMV will suspend/revoke your learner's permit/driver's license or right to operate immediately. There is no notification period.

You have the right to appeal this suspension before the district court in which the underlying charges are pending. This suspension cannot be appealed at the RMV.

When the breathalyzer failure suspension/revocation expires, you must see a Hearings Officer to be authorized for reinstatement.

Chemical test refusal

If a you are arrested for OUI, you will be asked to consent to a chemical test to determine your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). If you refuse a chemical test, the arresting officer will immediately:

  • Take custody of your learner's permit/driver's license (if issued by Massachusetts) or right to operate
  • Provide you with a written notification of the suspension/revocation of your driver's license, effective immediately (no temporary driver's license will be issued)
  • Impound your motor vehicle for 12 hours
  • Notify the RMV of the suspension within 24 hours

In Massachusetts, refusing to take a chemical test is not a criminal offense, but is instead a statutory requirement with an administrative suspension/revocation. The RMV will suspend/revoke your learner's permit/driver's license or right to operate immediately. There is no notification period.

Suspension periods for refusing a chemical test

Suspension periods vary by the number of prior OUI violations a customer has incurred, including convictions or program assignments from out-of-state or any other jurisdiction. The following table lists the suspension periods for refusing a chemical test, depending on customer's past OUI history.

For drivers over the age of 21
Number of Prior OUIs Suspension Period
None 180 days
One 3 years
Two 5 years
Three or more Lifetime

If your learner's permit/driver's license or right to operate is suspended/revoked for a chemical test refusal and you receive a court disposition of "Not Guilty" or a "Dismissal" on the underlying Operating Under the Influence violation, you are entitled to file a motion with the court requesting driver's license reinstatement under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24(1) (f) (1). It is important to note that the court disposition on the Operating Under the Influence violation alone will not automatically reinstate the suspension for a chemical test refusal.

When the chemical test refusal suspension/revocation expires, or a court order for reinstatement has been issued, you must see a Hearings Officer to be authorized for reinstatement.

You are entitled to a RMV hearing for a chemical test refusal, but you must appear within 15 days of the chemical test refusal.

Chemical test refusal hearings are only conducted at the Boston (Haymarket) RMV Service Center by a Hearings Officer. There are only 3 issues that can be challenged during the hearing:

  • The police officer did not have reasonable grounds for the OUI arrest.
  • You were not placed under arrest.
  • You did not refuse the breathalyzer test.

Operating under the influence

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24, the RMV will suspend/revoke a your learner's permit/driver's license or right to operate after receiving notification from a court of a conviction for Operating Under the Influence (OUI) of alcohol or drugs.

Multiple suspensions/revocations resulting from an alcohol-related violation will be served consecutively. This means a suspension generated as a result of a conviction for OUI will not begin until the suspension for refusing a breathalyzer is served in its entirety.

Convictions, suspension periods and reinstatement requirements

Suspension periods and reinstatement requirements vary by the number of prior OUI convictions a customer has on his/her driving record. The RMV must consider a customer's entire driving history when calculating an OUI suspension/revocation. The RMV will count all of a customer's OUI convictions and Driver Alcohol Education Program assignments, including convictions occurring out-of-state and in other jurisdictions, when determining the number of convictions and the associated suspension periods. The following table lists the suspension periods for the more common OUI-related convictions.

Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
Governing Law: Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24
  1st Offense 2nd Offense 3rd Offense 4th Offense 5th Offense
Suspension Period (If found guilty) One year Two years Eight years Ten years Lifetime
Reinstatement Requirements Court Assigned Alcohol Education Program (may shorten suspension) Pass a learner's permit exam and a road test Pass a learner's permit exam and a road test Pass a learner's permit exam and a road test  
Ignition Interlock Device No Yes Yes Yes  
Operating after a suspension for a previous Operating Under the Influence offense
Governing Law: Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 23
  1st Offense 2nd Offense 3rd Offense 4th Offense 5th Offense
Suspension Period One year One year One year One year One year
Child Endangerment: Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol with a child 14 years of age or younger in the vehicle
Governing Law: Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24V
  1st Offense 2nd Offense 3rd Offense 4th Offense 5th Offense
Suspension Period One year Three years Three years Three years Three years
Reinstatement Requirements   Pass a learner's permit exam and a road test Pass a learner's permit exam and a road test Pass a learner's permit exam and a road test Pass a learner's permit exam and a road test
Operating Under the Influence causing Serious Bodily Injury
Governing Law: Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24L
  1st Offense 2nd Offense 3rd Offense 4th Offense 5th Offense
Suspension Period Two years Two years Two years Two years Two years
Reinstatement Requirements Pass a learner's permit exam and a road test Pass a learner's permit exam and a road test Pass a learner's permit exam and a road test Pass a learner's permit exam and a road test Pass a learner's permit exam and a road test

Driver Alcohol Education Program assignments

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24D, any person convicted of or charged with a first offense of OUI may consent to be assigned to a Driver Alcohol Education Program as a condition of probation. When the court notifies the RMV that a customer has been assigned to a Driver Alcohol Education Program, the RMV will, as ordered by the court, suspend/revoke the customer's learner's permit/driver's license or right to operate for a period of 45-90 days. The Driver Alcohol Education Program is specifically designed by the Department of Public Health for the education and treatment of drivers who operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Refer to the Massachusetts substance abuse information and education helpline website for more information.

Interlock Ignition requirement

As part of Melanie's Law, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24 1/2 requires a customer with 2 or more OUI convictions or assignments to a substance abuse or driver alcohol education program is required to have an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed in his/her motor vehicle prior to the issuance of a new driver's license, or reinstatement of his/her permit/license or right to operate. If a customer requires an IID and is being granted a hardship license, pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24(1)(c)(1), (2), (3), (3½) and (3¾) and Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24D, he/she must maintain this device for the length of the hardship plus an additional 2 years after full reinstatement of his/her driving privileges. A customer must meet with a hearings officer prior to installing an IID to be sure he/she is eligible for reinstatement.

Drug convictions

Following Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 22 1/2, the RMV is required to suspend/revoke a customer's learner's permit/driver's license or right to operate upon receiving notification of a conviction for certain drug violations under Chapter 94C Section 32E.

Conviction Suspension Period
Trafficking, manufacturing, distributing or dispensing a Class A substance. 5 years
Trafficking, manufacturing, distributing or dispensing a Class B substance. 5 years
Trafficking, manufacturing, distributing or dispensing a Class C substance. 5 years

 

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