DUI in Massachusetts

There are several terms used in the state of Massachusetts to characterize the operation of a motor vehicle by a driver impaired by the use of alcohol or drugs. DUI (driving under the influence), OUI (operating under the influence), and DWI (driving while intoxicated) refer to similar driving offenses.

A Massachusetts driver can be arrested for the following drunk driving offenses:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, narcotic drugs, other depressants or stimulants, and/or intoxicating vapors
  • Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or greater
  • If under the age of 21, driving with a BAC of .02 or greater

Like many other states, Massachusetts has two sets of laws governing DUI charges. Under "per se" laws, latin for "by itself", a person can be convicted based solely on their blood alcohol content (BAC) levels determined through chemical testing. The limit that has been set for Massachusetts is .08 per cent blood alcohol by volume. No other evidence of driving impairment is needed under this law. If a driver passes the chemical tests, he or she can still be charged with DUI under another set of laws if other evidence exists that proves driving impairment.

Consequences of a DUI in Massachusetts

Court Fines Potential Jail Time License Suspension
1st Conviction $500-5,000 Up to 2.5 years 1 year
2nd Conviction $600-10,000 30 days - 2.5 years 2 years
3rd Conviction $1,000-15,000 150 days - 2.5 years 8 years
4th Conviction $1,500-25,000 1 year - 3 years 10 years
5th Conviction $2,000-50,000 2 years - 5 years Permanent

The above table outlines the penalties for DUI or OUI convictions in the state of Massachusetts. Since passing Melanie's Law in 2005, penalties for drunk driving in Massachusetts have become more severe. A person going to court for a DUI will either have to plead his/her case to a jury of six or a judge if the right to a jury trial is waved. If someone is found guilty of a charge of DUI, then it will be permanently placed on record. This conviction is immediately turned over to the National Driver's License Registry by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. This means that even if someone is not a resident of the state of Massachusetts when they receive the DUI, it will still be reported to the home state and their driver's license will be revoked.

Repeat Offender Status in Massachusetts

Many states offer a period of time that a person can prove they are not a repeat offender by saying that if there have been no DUI convictions in the last 5 to 10 years, then they are a first time offender again. This is not the case in Massachusetts. An OUI or DUI conviction remains permanently on record. If a driver has ever gotten a DUI, whether in Massachusetts or any other state, then any subsequent charge of DUI will be considered a repeat offense.

Chemical Testing and Implied Consent Laws

Under Massachusetts state law, any licensed person operating a motor vehicle automatically gives his or her consent to an approved test (blood or breath) for the purposes of showing intoxication. Refusing a breathalyzer test will result in 180 day license suspension on a first offense, 3 years on a second offense, 5 years on a third offense, and permanent suspension thereafter.

Unlike in many other states, refusing to take the breath test in Massachusetts is not admissable in court as evidence of guilt. This applies to field sobriety tests as well. For this reason, it is important to think carefully about your circumstances and decide whether or not it is best for you to take the tests or refuse them.

If you have found yourself in a situation where you are facing a possible DUI or OUI conviction, it is best to consult with a knowledgeable attorney who will be able to best advise you on your situation.

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