In Massachusetts, a Habitual Traffic Offender is someone who, in any rolling 5 year period, has three or more convictions for operating under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, reckless driving, or leaving the scene of an accident; or twelve or more convictions for other reportable violations such as speeding, failure to stop for a red light or stop sign, failure to stay within marked lanes, etc,
When determining whether someone qualifies as a habitual traffic offender, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles uses conviction dates and not the dates upon which the motor vehicle offenses were committed. Also, out of state convictions are counted just as if they had occurred in Massachusetts. Once someone is declared a Habitual Traffic Offender, the accumulation of any new qualifying violations will generate additional Habitual Traffic Offender license revocations unless and until the older violations drop outside of the rolling 5 year HTO look-back period.
It is possible to become a Habitual Traffic Offender overnight, in a single incident. For example, suppose a driver is convicted of operating under the influence, which is commonly referred to in Massachusetts as DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, and negligent operation of a motor vehicle. This is a common scenario where a driver is alleged to have crashed into something and left the scene, because he or she had been drinking. In addition to the license suspensions associated with the DUI and the 60 day suspensions for leaving the scene and negligent operation, the driver will automatically be declared a face a Habitual Traffic Offender and face four (4) year revocation of his or her license or right to operate a motor vehicle in Massachusetts.
Someone could lose their license for four (4) years, as a Habitual Traffic Offender, by accumulating minor violations such as speeding tickets over any rolling 5 year period. It is for this reason that drivers should not only drive carefully, but they should also consider appealing traffic citations within the 20 appeal period. Once labeled as Habitual Traffic Offenders, many people regret not having appealed their tickets. Once the 4 year license revocation is triggered, it is too late to appeal.
The good news for Massachusetts Habitual Traffic Offenders is that both the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance can consider you for a limited 12 hour hardship license, after you have served 1 year of the 4 year mandatory license revocation. It is important not to have any recent charges showing that you were driving on a suspended license, to receive favorable hardship consideration, which is completely discretionary. This means that there is not automatic right to a hardship license, even in the case of a 4 year HTO revocation.