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Old OUI Cases - Can an unresolved OUI charge in Massachsetts affect your Driver’s License in other States?
Were you charged with an OUI 10, 15, or 20-plus years ago? Did you forget about it and leave the state? Did you not forget about it and leave the state anyway? Or do you still live in Massachusetts? Whatever the case, there is a very good chance we can help fix it.
Many of our clients find themselves in these and similar positions. Most of those clients are reminded of their old cases when they try to renew their driver’s licenses. Here’s why—today, the Motor Vehicle Bureaus of almost all 50 states share a national database called the National Driver Registry (NDR).
The NDR database allows all participating states to share driver information with one another. In addition, the NDR database shows outstanding warrants. If you have failed to appear in court, at any point, then an outstanding warrant will show on the NDR.
You can't hide from an old charge, and expect to get a driver's license again, even in another state. The charge won't go away on it's own. There is no statute of limitations on open cases where you were already charged with a crime. A statute of limitiations for an OUI case only applies if you were never arrested or charged in the first place. If you were charged, but skipped out on court, you failed to appear in court, and are technically a fugitive.
For example: John Smith was arrested and charged with an OUI in Massachusetts in 1991, but he never showed up to court and shortly thereafter moved to Texas. In 2010, Mr. Smith attempted to renew his Texas driver’s license but was unable to do so because the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles database shows that Mr. Smith has a warrant from Massachusetts for failing to appear in court 1991. Also, the Texas database shows that Mr. Smith has an unresolved OUI case from Massachusetts. Texas will likely not allow Mr. Smith to renew his Texas driver’s license until he clears up his Massachusetts warrant and OUI.
The good news is that we can very often fix this problem. In most of these cases, the fact that considerable time has passed since the incident occurred is helpful; memories fade, cops retire, and files are purged.
How old OUI cases are different from new OUI cases
Older OUI cases differ from more recent OUI cases. It is much more difficult for the proscution to prove that you are guilty of an OUI if the evidence is years or decades old. There is a good chance that the government’s evidence will be weak. If the officer has retired or moved, then it is unlikely that he/she will show up to court. If the police report no longer exists then the officer will only be able to testify from his/her memory, which will probably be short on details.
If the arresting officer is still on the force, and the police report still exists, it’s quite possible that the officer will not have any independent recollection of the incident. That makes it difficult for the officer to be an effective witness; specifically, the officer may not show up to court or may not be able to identify you. Even if the officer comes to court, his or her recollection of the events can be impeached.
The government’s burden of proof is more difficult to meet if the witnesses do not remember the facts—if they show up at all. Old OUI cases often get dismissed for these reasons.
How we handle old OUI Cases
We file an appearance and ask the court to put the case back on the docket. Then we obtain whatever documentation is available; usually a police report and complaint. It is rare if documentation other than a police report exists. Next, we schedule the case for a trial or “disposition” date. On that date the case is resolved – by trial, plea, or dismissal.
Very often, we can get the case dismissed. However, some judges refuse to dismiss these cases without significant court costs; they say that they do not want to reward a defendant who “skipped town” to avoid the consequences. Nevertheless, our clients with “Old” OUIs quite frequently have their cases dismissed.
Will I have to Appear in Court on an Old OUI Case?
Not necesarily, no. We may be able to resolve the case on your half without you needing to show up in court at all, but it depends on the case.
Certainly we understand that if you now live in Florida or Texas, it is a real burden and a hassle for you to show up in a Massachusetts court. So we will do everything possible to avoid that, and fix this problem without your presence. That way you can get your driver's license back, and resolve this problem that's been hanging over your head for so long.
How an Unpaid Fine or Fee can Affect your License
You may be in a situation where the RMV will not allow you to reinstate your license. The RMV will not allow an individual to reinstate or renew his/her license if that person has outstanding fees. Those fees could be a result of a suspension.
Anytime your license is suspended a reinstatement fee must be paid before you can legally operate a motor vehicle; whether it be because of an OUI, 7 surchargeable events, Habitual Traffic Offender, Leaving the Scene of an Accident, Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle, unpaid out-of-state traffic infraction, etc. If you are a Massachusetts license holder and your license is suspended, you are not allowed to operate a motor vehicle until you pay the reinstatement fee.
The RMV will also not allow a Massachusetts driver to renew his/her license if that driver has unpaid fees in another state. Conversely, if you are an out-of-state license holder the Motor Vehicle Bureau from that state will likely to allow you to renew/reinstate your license if you have unpaid fees in Massachusetts.
Example: Janet Lang was arrested for OUI in Worcester in 1992. She refused a breath test. The refusal resulted in a license suspension of 90 days (Today, a refusal results in a 180-day license loss; longer if you have prior convictions). In 1992, the reinstatement fee following a refusal was $300. She plead guilty to the OUI, paid a fine. She then left town and moved to Florida. She obtained a Florida driver's license. She lived and worked in Florida without issue until 2009. In 2009, she was required to renew her Florida driver’s license. To her dismay she was not allowed to renew her driver’s license – the reason; unpaid fines.
Call me now for a free consultation on your Massachusetts OUI case, in any district court.
Attorney Russell Matson
© 2010 The Law Offices of Russell J Matson, PC
44 Adams St, Suite 5