Mass. Drivers with Serious Driving Violations Allowed on Roads, Auditor Finds

July 11, 2008

Delays in the processing of criminal traffic violations have allowed a large number of serious violators to remain on the road in Massachusetts for lengthy periods after their licenses should have been suspended or revoked, according to the state’s auditor.

According to State Auditor Joe DeNucci, in an audit of the Registry of Motor Vehicles, about 7,500 to 9,000 motorists with criminal citation dispositions reported during 2005 and 2006 were able to keep their licenses for an average two to four additional years.

The report blames administrative delays in processing the citations or, in some cases, delays by the courts in submitting the dispositions to the RMV.

Once received from the courts, adjudications of violations are forwarded by the RMV to the Merit Rating Board for entry into the RMV’s computerized database. However, DeNucci’s audit found that there are no procedures in place on the part of the registry and the courts to determine whether all adjudications are received and processed by the RMV in a timely manner.

DeNucci said the RMV should more closely monitor the timeliness of court dispositions to ensure that they are entered promptly in its automated system.

“The registry is the primary agency responsible for the administration and enforcement of our motor vehicle laws, so it has a responsibility to ensure that the public is protected by suspending or revoking the licenses of unsafe drivers as soon as possible following a court disposition,” said DeNucci.

In response, the RMV expressed frustration with delays in getting the information from the courts and said it agreed with DeNucci’s findings.

RMV officials said they would work with the court system on improvements.

Another section of DeNucci’s audit confirmed that the Commonwealth’s communities have lost out on millions of dollars in auto excise revenues because of untimely and inaccurate tax billings to owners of luxury vehicles over the course of several years. The Registry assigned well below-market valuations for thousands of vehicles such as Ferraris, Maseratis, Bentleys, Lamborghinis, Astin Martins and some BMWs, according to the audit.

This problem occurred when the RMV, due to staffing shortages, stopped performing manual evaluations of luxury vehicles and established a default value of $17,000 for any vehicle without an assigned value in the so-called “Blue Books.” For example, a new Maserati with an actual value of $325,000 would be assigned a valuation of just $17,000, meaning that the annual excise tax bill for this car would be $382 instead of the $7,312 tax bill that would be calculated from a correct valuation.

Rachel Kaprielian, a former state representative, became new registrar to head the Massachusetts RMV in May.

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