Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Articles Posted in Traffic Violations

There are a number of ways to lose your driving privileges in MA. From excessive traffic violations to an OUI conviction, reasons for suspension can vary widely. Fortunately, some MA drivers who lose their license will qualify for something called a hardship license. A hardship license allows the individual to drive, but only for approved reasons, and only under limited circumstances. Generally speaking, a hardship license allows people to drive to and from school and / or work.

Do I Qualify?

As stated above, there are many ways to lose your license. Whether or not you qualify for a hardship license will be largely dependent on several factors, including:\

  • the reason for your suspension or revocation,
  • how long your license has been suspended,
  • your previous driving record, and
  • whether your suspension is based on refusal of a chemical test or breath test.

Habitual Traffic Offenders and individuals with OUI convictions are generally eligible for a hardship license. If your suspension is due to refusal of a chemical or breath test you may still be eligible for a hardship license. To qualify under such circumstances, you must be enrolled in the 24D (first offender’s) program. Without enrollment in this program, the hardship license will be denied. It’s important to note that if your license has been suspended for refusing a chemical or breath test, you are entitled to a hearing within 15 days of the suspension. A Boston OUI defense attorney can help you protect your rights, and possibly get the refusal suspension overturned, at your hearing.

What Does a Hardship License Allow?

If you receive a hardship license after a suspension or revocation in MA, you will be allowed to operate a motor vehicle during the same 12-hour period each day. If you are found to be driving outside of that 12-hour period, you may receive a citation or even be arrested. Although the hardship license is primarily intended to allow you to drive to and from work and school, there are no restrictions on where you can drive as long as you stay within your designated 12-hour period.

Hardship License Requirements

There are many requirements for obtaining a hardship license. Some of the most common criteria include:

  • No operation of a motor vehicle since the suspension or revocation
  • Minimum suspension period for hardship consideration has passed
  • Enrollment in the 24D program
  • Completion of the National Safety Council Driver Retraining Course
  • Completion of an approved alcohol treatment program
  • Documentation that you are in compliance with probation
  • A letter from your employer or school stating that you need a hardship license

You may have to serve a specific term of your suspension prior to becoming eligible for a hardship license. If your suspension is due to being classified as a Habitual Traffic Offender, for example, MA law holds that you must wait at least one year before applying for a hardship license. The Registry typically issues about 3,500 hardship licenses per year. Even if you qualify under the hardship criteria listed above, there are no guarantees that you will be issued a hardship license. An experienced Boston defense attorney is crucial to a favorable outcome. Continue reading

There are many reasons why your Massachusetts driver’s license may be suspended or revoked. These include specific driving violations, such as excessive speeding tickets or driving without insurance. You could also lose your license due to criminal offenses, such as operating under the influence or violation of other state laws. Whatever the reason, driving on a suspended or revoked license is never a good idea. Choosing to do so may result in additional consequences, and even jail time.

Suspended vs. Revoked

Massachusetts driver’s licenses can be temporarily suspended or permanently revoked:

  • With a suspension, you are not allowed to drive for a certain period of time, but you may have the opportunity to get your license back at a later date.
  • With a revocation, your driver’s license is canceled, and you only have the opportunity to get it reinstated if you submit to an investigation.

In either case, license suspension and revocation are both red flags to insurance companies. Your premiums will likely skyrocket. In some cases, your insurance company may even cancel your policy. A MA defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been stopped for driving on a suspended or revoked license.

Reasons for Driver’s License Suspension/Revocation

Operating under the influence and driving without insurance are among the most common reasons for license suspension and revocation, but you can also lose your Massachusetts driver’s license for the following reasons:

  • The state determines that you are a threat to public safety due to serious violations of traffic law.
  • You drove with a suspended license or used a false driver’s license. Driving with a suspended license leads to an increase in the length of the suspension, and could also result in imprisonment of up to five years.
  • You have physical or psychological impairments. Your driving privileges may be suspended if a health care provider or law enforcement officer determines that you are unable to drive safely.

Next to specific driving violations, there are also non-driving reasons for license suspension. These include:

  • being delinquent on your child support payments,
  • not registering as a sex offender,
  • not appearing when there is an arrest warrant,
  • failing to pay traffic tickets, fines or surcharges, and
  • certain criminal offenses.

With regard to criminal offenses, you may lose your license if you:

  • are caught stealing a motor vehicle – three year suspension,
  • leave the scene of an injury accident without giving aid – one to two years,
  • are found guilty of homicide involving a motor vehicle – 15 years to a lifetime suspension, or
  • are convicted of driving to endanger – two months to one year.

Penalties for Driving on a Suspended License

If you are stopped for operating a motor vehicle with a suspended or revoked license, you may face the following penalties:

  • Up to 10 days in jail
  • Fine between $500 and $1,000
  • 60 day license suspension (mandatory)

The sentence will also be based on the reason you lost your driving privilege in the first place, and whether or not you have already been convicted. In some cases, the sentence may result in a fine of up to $10,000, and up to one year in jail. A Boston defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been stopped for driving on a suspended or revoked license. Continue reading

We’ve all been stuck behind a slow driver in the left lane. It can be frustrating, aggravating, even infuriating. But should it be illegal? Most states have addressed the issue of left lane “slowpokes” through legislation, signs, or fines. Proponents of these laws argue that driving slow in the left lane is as dangerous as speeding because it frustrates people to the point of road rage. Some states – including  Georgia, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia – have recently adopted tougher laws and enforcement to keep people out of the left lane, unless they are passing.

Some states, such as Missouri and Michigan are using a subtler approach to educate and inform. Missouri uses funny signs, such as “Camp in the Ozarks, not the left lane,” and Michigan troopers turn traffic stops into teaching opportunities with the state’s newly-launched “Southpaw Initiative.” Violators are stopped and educated about left lane driving and how it can disrupt the flow of traffic. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime during a routine traffic stop.

A Violation of Rights?

Although most of the violators in Michigan’s Southpaw Initiative were let off with just a warning (key word, most), critics are concerned about the possible implications. Charles E. Sydnor III, a Democrat representing Maryland’s Baltimore County, said he was recently pulled over in Virginia for a left-lane violation. He claims to have been preparing to make a left turn.

“Once you incentivize law enforcement to go after people in the left lane, it could be a pretext to pulling people over for no reason,” said Sydnor.

But despite the potential for such laws to encroach on our constitutional rights, states are increasingly likely to adopt left lane-related laws in order to reduce traffic congestion. Oklahoma’s new law, which went into effect last week, imposes a fine of more than $200 for drivers who hang out in the left lane too long. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with a crime during a routine traffic stop.

“I believe it has caused some road rage incidents,” said Oklahoma State Trooper Dwight Durant, and spokesman for the state’s Highway Patrol. “It’s caused some collisions with property damage, personal injury and even death. We’re hopeful this new law will cut down on that.” OK has also installed 234 signs across the state warning drivers to avoid clogging the left lane. And effective July 1, Nevada and Virginia are carrying fines of up to $250 for the same.

How to Gently Nudge Left Lane Hogs Out of the Passing Lane

Due to the dangers of slow driving in the left lane, minimum speed limits are typically posted on highways. Anyone driving below the minimum speed can be ticketed and fined. These folks usually fall into one of four categories: distracted, “leaf peepers” or tourists, new drivers, and the elderly. If you encounter a slow driver, or someone who just won’t leave the left lane, avoid aggressive tactics to get them to move. Instead, safely pass the slow driver. If passing isn’t possible, gently urge the driver to speed up or move by following the advice below:

  • Keep your cool and have patience
  • Flick your headlights a few times
  • Calmly tap your horn

If they still won’t budge, take a few deep breaths and count your blessings. It could be worse. Continue reading

In MA, drivers are required to carry liability insurance. The minimum requirements are $20,000 per person for bodily injury, $40,000 per accident for bodily injury, $8,000 for personal injury protection, and $5,000 to cover property damages and a portion of uninsured/underinsured motorist protection. Driving without insurance, or with a policy that doesn’t meet these minimum requirements, is a civil motor vehicle infraction (CMVI) in MA.

Is Driving Without Insurance a Crime?

It depends. If this is your first offense, chances are you won’t see jail time. However, if this is a second or subsequent offense, or someone was injured, it might be a different story entirely. Even if you are not criminally charged, a first offense does carry fines and a license suspension. In addition to a $500 fine, you are likely to lose your license for 60 days and pay an additional $500 to get it reinstated.

At first glance, jail time and hefty fines may seem a harsh punishment for neglecting to purchase auto insurance. But there’s a reason why motor vehicle insurance is so important. If you are involved in a collision, people could be seriously injured or killed. What if you are the at-fault driver? Who will pay the medical expenses and lost wages for those who are injured? Who will cover funeral expenses if someone is killed?

Generally, these expenses are at least partially covered by the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. If you drive without insurance, accident victims could be facing more than injuries; they could also be facing a financial catastrophe. For this reason, it is required by law to carry auto insurance before you take to the open road. A MA defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you are facing penalties for driving without insurance.

Penalties for Operating an Uninsured Vehicle

MA is tough on drivers who hit the roadways without insurance. Even for a first offense. But what about second and subsequent offenses?

If a second offense occurs within six years of your first offense, you are looking at a fine of up to $5,000, a one-year license suspension, one year in jail, and a $500 license reinstatement fee. That’s a lot of money and time behind bars. The moral to this story? Don’t drive without insurance. But if you made a mistake, an experienced Boston defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed.

Disputing a Citation for Driving an Uninsured Vehicle

If you have received a CMVI citation, it’s in your best interest to contact an attorney immediately. You have 20 days in which to request a hearing, and pay the corresponding fee to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. But you have to do it right. Failure to pay your fine, or file a dispute in a timely manner, can result in additional fines and the suspension of your license. Continue reading

A former Michigan prosecutor recently injured a man in a drunk driving accident. Having prosecuted many drunk drivers, Joshua Kuiper should have known better. He was charged with felony reckless driving after he crashed into Daniel Empson, who was retrieving something from a parked car. Kuiper was driving the wrong way on a one way street at the time of the incident. The former attorney was out in celebration of another prosecutor’s retirement.

Dram Shop Laws

In addition to the dangers of drunk driving, Kuiper should have known about dram shop laws. Named after the traditional term for a unit of liquor, dram shop laws hold bars liable for injuries caused by patrons they’ve over-served. Empson has filed an injury lawsuit against three bars that he alleges over-served Kuiper before the accident.

It’s common knowledge that hand-held electronics, such as smart phones, pose a serious distraction when we’re behind the wheel. But is that distraction as dangerous as intoxication? Can technology actually affect our sobriety? A new Washington law aims to treat cell phone use while driving in much the same way as drunk driving. The law would ban the use of all electronic devices when driving, even when stopped at a red light.

Electronic Driving While Impaired

According to Washington Governor Jay Inslee, the bill is called “electronic driving while impaired,” and the new offense would be called a DUI-E. “When you are driving with a cell phone,” said Inslee, “you are a more dangerous driver than if you are driving drunk with a .08 blood alcohol level.” And these aren’t just empty words; research backs up Inslee’s statements.

When a police officer stops your vehicle on suspicion of OUI, he or she will likely initiate a series of tests to determine if the suspicion is accurate. The officer will observe your eyes, your speech, and your overall demeanor. He or she will ask questions, such as have you had anything to drink.” If the officer believes there is probable cause, you will likely be asked to step out of the vehicle to perform a field sobriety test. You may also be asked to submit to a breath or blood test. These tests are performed to gather evidence, and any information obtained will be used against you in an OUI case. As such, it’s important to know your rights if you are ever stopped after having a few drinks.

 

  • Ask for a lawyer. There is very little information that you are required to give to police during an OUI stop. You must provide basic identifying information, such as your name and address, driver’s license and registration. But even a question such as have you had anything to drink tonight doesn’t require a response. Your best bet is to remain calm and courteous, and to politely ask to speak to your lawyer before answering any questions. A skilled Boston OUI defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been pulled over on suspicion of OUI.

 

  • Do not submit to the field sobriety test. Ok, before we move forward it’s important to note the following – you do have to get out of the vehicle if the officer asks you to do so. You do not, however, have to answer the officer’s questions or perform a field sobriety test. If asked to get out of your vehicle, do so politely, and then inform the officer that you do not wish to perform the field sobriety test, and that you would like to speak to your lawyer immediately. Field sobriety tests are designed to produce failures. People who are completely sober frequently fail these tests. Without the evidence of a failed field sobriety test, proving that you’re guilty becomes quite the hurdle.

 

Are there Consequences of Refusing a Field Sobriety test?

Well, refusal of a field sobriety test doesn’t carry the official consequences of refusing a breath test (we’ll talk about those shortly), but refusing a field sobriety test is a relatively surefire way of getting arrested. The same could be said for submitting to the test, however. In many ways, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t…but for one major exception; a failed field sobriety test may lead you to jail and – most likely – a conviction. A refused test may lead you to jail, but you’ll have a significantly better chance of having your OUI charge dismissed without that evidence to substantiate the charge.

Can I Refuse the Breathalyzer?

Breath and blood tests are an entirely different story. In MA, refusing a breath test carries an automatic 180-day license suspension. That being said, it may still be in your best interest to refuse the breath test. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this problem. Your best course of action is to contact an experienced MA OUI defense attorney immediately if you find yourself in this situation. Continue reading

Also known as “hit and run,” leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident is a criminal offense. A hit and run doesn’t have to involve injuries, but penalties are likely to be much more severe if someone is injured. Although it’s never a good idea to leave the scene of an accident, people are prone to use poor judgement in the heat of the moment. Unfortunately, fleeing the scene can elevate potential penalties from strictly financial to criminal. Fortunately, multiple defenses are available to protect the rights of individuals charged with this offense.

Potential Defenses to a Hit and Run Charge

Leaving the scene of the accident is a crime, but things aren’t always what they seem. Maybe you didn’t even realize you had hit another vehicle. The following scenarios are common challenges against hit and run charges.

If you’re driving through Quincy, you may want to think twice before picking up your smart phone or other handheld device. Effective Friday, April 6, Quincy’s police department has launched a crackdown on distracted driving as part of a larger, statewide effort to make MA highways safer. Quincy police will be looking for distracted drivers, and issuing tickets to those who are using handheld devices while behind the wheel.

The MA Executive Office of Public Safety and Security recently awarded a grant in the amount of $20,000 to the Quincy Police Department. At least part of the funds, which are earmarked for 2017 traffic enforcement operations, will go toward the campaign against distracted driving. Braintree, Norwell, and Weymouth are also taking part in the larger, statewide campaign. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in an accident involving a distracted driver.

“Our goal is keeping all road users in our community safe,” said Quincy police Capt. John Dougan. “If you text, dial or read a message on your phone while driving, you are endangering the lives of those around you, and you will be stopped. Using our community’s crash data, our officers will determine where the majority of crashes occur and focus their patrols in those areas.”

It’s Against the Law

Writing, reading, or sending electronic messages while driving is against the law in Massachusetts. The same goes for using apps or otherwise “browsing” the internet. And you don’t have to be moving to get busted; it’s just as illegal to text when you’re sitting at a traffic light as when you’re doing 60 down the highway. If you’re under 18 and behind the wheel, all use of electronic devices is prohibited, even making or answering a phone call. If a distracted driver has caused you physical harm or financial loss, a MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to recover damages.

What’s the Penalty?

If you’re caught illegally using an electronic device while driving, you may receive a fine of up to $500. And drivers under 18 could lose their license for up to one year. “It’s something that we are always looking for, but this specific campaign will add extra officers and time devoted strictly to distracted driving enforcement throughout the month of April,” said Quincy police Sgt. Karyn Barkas.

Distracted Driving Statistics

In the United States, more than eight people are killed due to a distracted driver every day. Texting is likely the most dangerous form of distracted driving as it involves every type of distraction: visual, manual, and cognitive. But anything that takes your eyes or mind off the road, from using a navigation system to eating, can be a distraction while driving.

  • According to the National Safety Council, 1.6 million motor vehicle crashes annually are a result of cell phone use.
  • One out of every four car crashes in this country is caused by texting while driving.
  • In a recent AAA poll, 94 percent of teen drivers are aware of the dangers of texting while driving, yet 35 percent admit that they do it anyway.
  • Teens are four times more likely than their adult counterparts to be involved in motor vehicle crashes while texting or talking on a cell phone.

Continue reading

Driving on a suspended license is a crime in MA, but we understand that the decision to do so is often for very practical reasons. Maybe you had to pick up one of your kids, or drive to an interview. The decision to drive on a suspended license isn’t a good one, but it doesn’t make you a bad person either. A MA defense lawyer can help you manage the damage if you’ve been charged with driving on a suspended license.

Driver’s licenses can be suspended or revoked for a variety of reasons, including driving under the influence, littering, or having an outstanding warrant. If your license is suspended, don’t drive. But if you already failed to heed that advice, there are several defenses that may be available to you. The underlying offense that resulted in your suspension, and prior criminal history will factor heavily in the outcome of your case. If, for example, you have no other criminal history and your license was suspended because you were delinquent on child support payments, you have a better chance of having your charges dropped than if you are a habitual offender whose license was suspended for reckless driving while under the influence of drugs.

Penalties for Driving on a Suspended License

If you are convicted of operating on a suspended or revoked license, the factors mentioned above will come into play. However, the penalties below provide a good idea of the fines and possible jail time you may be facing.

  • First offense: A maximum of 10 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Second offense: Up to one year in jail.
  • Habitual offender: Up to two years in a state prison, and up to $5,000 in fines.

In addition to the above penalties, your driver’s license may be suspended for additional time, or it may be revoked altogether.

“I Didn’t Know My License Was Suspended”

It is absolutely possible for people to have a suspended license without knowing it. In fact, it happens all the time. Maybe you have an out of state license, or you recently moved. You may have missed a notification that your license was to be suspended for too many speeding tickets or unpaid tolls, for example. Not knowing that your license is suspended is not a defense by itself. However, if it can be shown that you truly were unaware of the suspension, and the other factors surrounding your offense are not severe, a Boston defense lawyer can use this as a way to mitigate the damage. In many cases, a skilled lawyer can get the charges dropped completely.

What if Your License Was Revoked?

If you get caught driving on a revoked license, the penalties are generally more serious. In the majority of cases, you will face mandatory jail time for this offense. This is especially true if the revocation was for a 5th OUI offense. Don’t make the mistake of hiring just any lawyer if you’ve been charged with driving on a suspended or revoked license. Your decision could be the difference between time behind bars and a complete dismissal of charges. Continue reading

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