Friday, February 18, 2011

DUI Appeal of the Day (DAD) - Revocation Period for Out-of-State DUI Conviction

In DiGregorio v. registrar of Motor Vehicles--- N.E.2d ----, Mass.App.Ct. , 2011 WL 522063 (Mass.App.Ct.), the defendant was a Massachusetts driver who frequently visited Connecticut. He has a long history of driving infractions in both States. In 1997, he was convicted in Massachusetts of OUI, his first such conviction. He was then convicted of OUI in Connecticut on April 18, 2000. For this conviction, Connecticut suspended his driving privileges in that State, and on May 24, 2000, Connecticut placed a notice of that suspension in the National Driver Register (NDR), an interstate repository for the sharing of driving records. The Massachusetts registrar did not learn of the out-of-State conviction or suspension at that time. He was again arrested in Connecticut for OUI in June of 2004. He was convicted of that offense on October 4, 2004 (his second OUI conviction in Connecticut and his third overall). However, the registrar apparently had no occasion to check the NDR database at this time and instead first learned of the 2004 Connecticut incident from her review of NDR records in April of 2007.
Because DiGregorio had been convicted for a third time of driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor (OUI), the Registrar of Motor Vehicles (registrar) was prohibited by statute from restoring his driving privileges until after 8 years. The main issue on appeal had to do with when the 8 years began - from the date of conviction, or from the date the DMV learned of the out-of-state conviction.
Ultimately, the case was resolved based on the specific language of the state statute; under the express terms of that subsection, the registrar is prohibited from restoring the driving rights of a third time offender “until eight years after the date of conviction.” The principal argument of the DMV was that relying on the date of conviction for out-of-State violations would create serious adverse policy consequences, because the registrar retains no control over the timeliness of the information that other States enter into the NDR system. Specifically, they suggested that relying on the “date of conviction” would allow hazardous drivers back on the road sooner or allow them to escape due punishment. As the opinion stated:

"This argument ignores the maxim that “[w]here ... the language of the statute is clear, it is the function of the judiciary to apply it, not amend it.”

As it is likely that other states have similar delayed notice and/or reporting issues, this case may come in handy in shortening the length of a suspension or revocation therein.

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