Heard: May 10, 2018.
action commenced in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county
of Suffolk on September 26, 2017. The case was reported by
J. Bender, Assistant District Attorney (Timothy Ferriter,
Assistant District Attorney, also present) for the
M. Vaillancourt (Andrew Sprow also present) for the
Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Gaziano, Lowy, Budd, Cypher,
& Kafker, JJ.
2010, the defendant's driver's license was suspended
for his refusal to consent to a breathalyzer after his arrest
for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of
alcohol (OUI). Because the defendant had three prior
convictions of OUI when he refused the breathalyzer, his
license was subject to a lifetime suspension. The defendant
was later found not guilty of the 2010 OUI charge, and he
immediately moved to have his license restored, pursuant to
G. L. c. 90, § 24 (1) (f) (1). His motion was denied.
The defendant made three subsequent motions for restoration
of his license in 2011, 2015, and 2017. A judge in the
District Court granted the defendant's 2017 motion for
restoration of his license.
Commonwealth filed a petition for relief with the single
justice, pursuant to G. L. c. 211, § 3, arguing that the
defendant's license could not be restored under the
statute because he was entitled only to an
"immediate" hearing on restoration of his license,
not one held seven years later, and that allowance of the
motion for the reasons stated by the judge would essentially
amount to an unconstitutional reformulation of the statute.
The single justice reserved and reported the case to the full
court. Because the plain language of the statute and the
legislative history preclude the relief requested, we
Massachusetts, one's right to operate a motor vehicle is
a privilege voluntarily granted. . . . Continued possession
of this privilege is conditioned on obedience to the
Legislature's comprehensive regulatory scheme aimed at
regulating the motorways and keeping them safe." Luk
v. Commonwealth, 421 Mass. 415, 423 (1995). Toward this
end, an individual who drives on a public road is
"deemed to have consented to submit to a chemical test
or analysis of his breath or blood in the event that he is
arrested for operating a motor vehicle while under the
influence of intoxicating liquor." G. L. c. 90, §
24 (1) (f) (1) . Failing or refusing to take such a test
results in license suspension. Id. Such
"suspension serves to deter persons from driving while
intoxicated; it effectuates the Commonwealth's interest
in obtaining reliable and relevant evidence by inducing
suspected drunk drivers to take the breath test; and it
promotes safety on the highways by summary removal of
dangerous drivers." Luk, supra at 425.
See Mackey v. Montrym, 443 U.S. 1, 18 (1979) (same).
comparison of the suspensions imposed on, and remedies
available to, drivers who take the breathalyzer test and
those who refuse it is informative. An individual who fails
the breathalyzer and is subsequently convicted of OUI faces
significant suspension consequences. See G. L. c. 90, §
24 (1) (c). Individuals with no prior OUI convictions who are
subsequently convicted of OUI face a one-year suspension of
their license. G. L. c. 90, § 24 (1) (c) (1).
Individuals with one prior OUI conviction face a two-year
suspension. G. L. c. 90, § 24 (1) (c) (2). Individuals
with two prior OUI convictions face an eight-year suspension.
G. L. c. 90, § 24 (1) (c) (3). Individuals with three
prior OUI convictions face a ten-year suspension. G. L. c.
90, § 24 (1) (c) (3 ¾). Individuals with
four prior OUI convictions face a lifetime suspension. G. L.
c. 90, § 24 (1) (c) (3 ¾). When an
individual's license is suspended pursuant to § 24
(1) (c), the statute permits the individual to apply for
issuance of a limited license on the ground of hardship. The
statute does not, however, permit individuals subject to a
lifetime suspension to seek such a hardship license. See G.
L. c. 90, § 24 (1) (c) (3 ¾).
individual who refuses to take the breathalyzer faces
suspension consequences irrespective of whether he or she is
subsequently convicted of OUI. See G. L. c. 90, § 24 (1)
(f) (1) . Individuals with no prior OUI convictions who
refuse to take the test face a 180-day suspension of their
license. Id. Individuals with one prior OUI
conviction face a three-year suspension. Id.
Individuals with two prior OUI convictions face a five-year
suspension. Id. Individuals with three prior OUI
convictions face a lifetime suspension. Id. Unlike
nonlifetime suspensions imposed pursuant to § 24 (1)
(c), if an individual's license is suspended for refusing
to take the breathalyzer, the individual is not permitted to
apply for a hardship license. See G. L. c. 90, § 24 (1)
statute does, however, provide an avenue for relief for
individuals who refuse to take the test but are subsequently
acquitted of OUI. See G. L. c. 90, § 24 (1) (f) (1). The
"the defendant may immediately, upon the entry of a not
guilty finding or dismissal of all charges under this
section, . . . and in the absence of any other alcohol
related charges pending against said defendant, apply for and
be immediately granted a hearing before the court which took
final action on the charges for the purpose of requesting the
restoration of said license. At said hearing, there shall be
a rebuttable presumption that said license be restored,
unless the commonwealth shall establish, by a fair
preponderance of the evidence, that restoration of said