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Burke v. Board of Appeal On Motor Vehicle Liability Policies & Bonds

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

September 12, 2016

JOSEPH L. BURKE
v.
BOARD OF APPEAL ON MOTOR VEHICLE LIABILITY POLICIES AND BONDS & another.[1]

          Heard: March 16, 2016.

         Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on December 9, 2013. The case was heard by Edward P. Leibensperger, J., on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, and a motion for reconsideration was considered by him.

          Brian K. Wells for the plaintiff.

          David R. Marks, Assistant Attorney General, for the defendants.

          Present: Cohen, Katzmann, & Blake, JJ.

          KATZMANN, J.

         In this appeal, we are again asked to consider whether a lifetime suspension is appropriate for a driver who, after having committed an operating under the influence (OUI) offense, causes a fatality in the course of a second OUI offense. Plaintiff Joseph Burke appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court upholding a decision of the defendant Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liability Policies and Bonds (Board) that affirmed the denial by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles (registrar) of Burke's application for reinstatement of his driver's license pursuant to G. L. c. 90, § 24(1)(c)(4), as amended through St. 1982, c. 373, § 4, as well as the registrar's permanent revocation of that license, on the basis that Burke's second drunk driving offense resulted in a fatality.[2] We affirm.

         Background.

         On February 27, 2000, Burke, was arrested for OUI after a motor vehicle accident in Rehoboth. On May 1, 2000, Burke admitted to sufficient facts for a finding of guilty of OUI in connection with the February incident but received the benefit of a continuance without a finding of guilty (CWOF) for one year until May 1, 2001, during which time he was placed on probation. The terms of his probation included a 180-day loss of license and an assignment to an alcohol education program.

         On August 6, 2000, while still on probation with his license suspended as a result of the incident the previous February, Burke drove a motor vehicle when intoxicated, and was responsible for a motor vehicle accident in Milton in which his passenger, Patrick Connolly, sustained fatal injuries.[3] On December 28, 2000, Burke pleaded guilty to manslaughter; OUI, second offense; and operating after his license had been suspended for OUI in connection with the fatal accident in August, 2000. As part of the probationary portion of his sentence, Burke was required to wait ten years after his release from incarceration before he could apply to have his license reinstated.

         On January 11, 2001, after his guilty plea in the fatal accident, the CWOF on Burke's prior offense was revoked and a guilty conviction and sentence were imposed.

         Burke applied to have his driver's license reinstated in August, 2013. Burke was initially notified that his license had been revoked for fifteen years. After Burke appealed the fifteen-year revocation, and pursuant to further review of his file by the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), the registrar ultimately notified Burke that he was subject to a lifetime revocation because of his manslaughter conviction. The board affirmed, finding after a November 7, 2013, hearing "that the [r]egistrar's order revoking Burke's license for life for a conviction of manslaughter in which alcohol was involved, with a prior [OUI] conviction is legal and proper, the statute does not contain a statutory provision for granting a hardship and it is not appropriate to terminate the license revocation."[4]

         Discussion.

         Burke raises a number of arguments on appeal that can be broadly placed into two categories. The first is that the proper construction of G. L. c. 90, § 24(1) (c0 (4), provides for only a ten-year license suspension to be imposed on a driver's first fatal drunk driving accident regardless of whether that driver was previously convicted of OUI and that a driver must have been involved in two separate OUIs with a fatality before becoming subject to lifetime license revocation. Second, he raises a number of arguments challenging the application of § 24(1) (c) (4) in his case.

         1. Standa ...


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