October 7, 2020

At Contant Law we handle a lot of drunk driving cases.  One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “How soon can I get my license back?” So, I wanted to talk about something called a hardship license. Some people know it as a “Cinderella” license.

Hardship License Under 24D Program For First Time Offenders

The most common way to get a hardship license is if your OUI case is disposed by what they call a 24D disposition. With a limited exception, this disposition is reserved for first time OUI offenders.  This means that the case is all over and the judge enters a particular sentence under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 90, Section 24D. If you get this disposition, you will have the ability to apply at the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles to get a hardship license.  There are other types of hardship licenses, but for the purposes of this article we are only discussing the hardship license and requirements under the 24D program.

Understanding the Limits of a Cinderella License

What is a hardship or Cinderella license? It’s a license that’s good for 12 hours per day. You would choose the particular 12-hour period based upon your needs.  But it has to be the same 12 hours every day. Usually, it will be based upon time needed to get you to and from the destination for which the license needed. Most commonly, the hardship relates to someone’s need to work.  Their job may require them to drive for the job, maybe driving a company truck, or a company car, or just to get to and from work and public transportation just isn’t going to cut it.

But also understand that the hardship license doesn’t just have to be for work. It can be for other reasons as well. It can be for medical reasons. Say you have to get to certain medical appointments that you absolutely need your car to get to because public transportation is not going to cut it. Or maybe  you’re caring for an elderly family member or something like that.  The hardship can even be for educational purposes.

How To Get The Hardship License

In order to get a hardship license, there’s a process like anything else.  The first and most important part is to have disposed your OUI case and the judge gave you this 24D disposition.

Second, you have to start the main component of the program which is a 16-week alcohol education program.  You don’t need to have finished all 16 weeks of the program, it is enough to have signed up and have been accepted into the program.  Once you do the intake interview and are accepted, the alcohol education program will give you paperwork verifying this.

Third, you’re going to need a letter concerning the hardship / need to drive.  As I mentioned above, it could be from your employer or doctor or school, etc.  So, if it’s for work your employer would need to write a letter which establishes that you need your license to work, including your work hours.

Fourth,  you’re also going to have to show that you can’t reasonably accomplish the purpose of the hardship through public transportation. It could be that there are no buses or trains which go near where you need to go.  You can get this information with a simple Google search to identify the public transit schedules.  Or it could be that you actually need to drive for work to get yourself and/or tools and equipment to certain locations.  For instance, a few years ago we had a client who was a home improvement contractor.  He needed to bring tools and materials to various job sites.  This is not something he could do by taking the bus.

You take all of this paperwork to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles and ask for a hearing for a hardship license.  No appointment is needed, it can be done on a walk-in first-come, first-served basis. It’s best to get to the Registry as early as possible (even before it opens to get your place in line).  However, the RMV only does these hearings at certain locations, so be sure to check the RMV website prior to going.  A Registry Hearing Officer will review everything to determine whether you should be granted this license.  A couple of other things that you need to know are:

  • You can’t be serving a suspension for anything else not related to your drunk driving case
  • There can’t be any indication that you have driven at all since your suspension (i.e., if you got arrested for driving on that suspended license, you won’t get a hardship)
  • There is a fee to reinstate your license after an OUI, which is usually $500

If you meet all of the requirements, in most circumstances they’re going to grant the hardship license which will be good through the entire suspension period related to the OUI case.  This includes any suspension for refusing the breathalyzer or other chemical test.   After your suspension time is over you can return the Registry of Motor Vehicles and have your license reinstated to an unrestricted license.

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email.