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The Massachusetts OUI Guide

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What is the difference between a OUI, DUI, DWI, OWI, DWAI, OUIL, etc.?


These terms are all acronyms that refer to the offense commonly known as "drunk driving."  Different states have different names for the crime.  Massachusetts law prohibits "operat[ing] a motor vehicle . . . while under the influence" so many people use the term OUI.  The statute title refers to "driving while under influence" which could be referenced as DWUI, DWI or DUI.  MGL Chapter 90, Section 24.  This site uses the terms OUI, DUI, and DWI interchangeably.

 

I just got arrested for a Commonwealth of Massachusetts OUI offense.  What happens now?

 

ISSUE ONE:  The Massachusetts Administrative License Suspension Proceeding:  Your Massachusetts drivers license (or your right to drive in Massachusetts if you're not a Massachusetts licensed driver) was most likely suspended for anywhere from 30 days to five years for failing or refusing a chemical test depending on your OUI history.  [Failing a breath test is registering .08 percent or greater BAC or registering .02 percent or greater BAC if you're under 21 years of age.] 

 

MASSACHUSETTS ADMINISTRATIVE LICENSE SUSPENSIONS FOR PERSONS 21 YEARS AND OLDER
  No Prior OUI's One Prior OUI Two Prior OUI's Three + Prior OUI's
Test Failure 30 days 30 days 30 days 30 days
Test Refusal 180 days Three years Five years Lifetime

 

Read your paperwork carefully.  If you would like to challenge the suspension for failing or refusing a chemical test, you must make you appeal within 15 days of your arrest.  Requesting an appeal gives you a chance to overturn the administrative suspension, but most appeals are not successful.  Contact a Massachusetts lawyer for more information about your appeal rights.

 

 

ISSUE TWO:  The Massachusetts OUI Criminal Case:  Separate from the administrative license suspension is the criminal charge for operating under the influence or OUI.  In Massachusetts, it is unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle while the person:

  • has a BAC of .08 percent or greater of alcohol in his or her blood; or

  • is under the influence of intoxicating liquor, or marijuana, or narcotic drugs, or depressants, or stimulants, or the vapors of glue.

Important:  The administrative license suspension and the criminal OUI case are separate proceedings. 

 

Will my Massachusetts driver license be revoked / suspended?

 

RELATED TO ISSUE ONE ABOVE:  Your Massachusetts driver license (or your right to drive in Massachusetts if you do not have a valid Massachusetts license) may be suspended for failing or for refusing a chemical (breath) test.  Again, you may challenge this suspension by requesting an appeal / hearing within 15 days of the date of your arrest.  Massachusetts no longer issues temporary permits for these suspensions. 

 

 

RELATED TO ISSUE TWO ABOVE:  If you are convicted of the OUI charge, you will also lose your license (or your right to drive in Massachusetts if you don't have a valid Massachusetts license).  This suspension is distinct from the administrative license suspension.  Talk to your Massachusetts OUI lawyer for possible suspension lengths for your situation.

 

 

Also keep in mind that your license can be suspended for a variety of reasons unrelated to an OUI arrest e.g. a drug conviction, failure to pay child support, etc.

 

I have a Massachusetts commercial driver license (CDL).  How long will my CDL be suspended for an OUI conviction?

 

For a first OUI conviction in Massachusetts your CDL will be suspended for one year (regardless of whether you're driving a commercial vehicle).  For a second DWI your CDL will be revoked for the rest of your life.

 

What happens if I get caught operating on a suspended license?

 

Driving a motor vehicle when your license is suspended for an OUI conviction must be avoided as it is a new criminal offense.  Penalties include fines and substantial jail time--typically 60 days.  If you're on probation for an OUI and you get caught operating under a suspension you will also violate your probation and face penalties for the probation violation as well.

 

I really need to drive.  Will I be able to get a restricted / occupational / conditional / probationary / hardship permit?

 

A hardship permit may be available to you but only after you've been found guilty or had a continuance without a finding (more on that below).  Put another way, a hardship license is not available for suspensions related to failing or refusing a breath or blood test while the criminal case against you is pending. 

 

This is one reason why persons charged with a first OUI offense may decide to resolve their case without a trial.  It allows you to get back on the road quicker (especially if you refused the breath test). 

 

You may be able to get a hardship permit following a second OUI conviction; however, there will be a substantial waiting period before you become eligible.  Additionally, you will have to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle.

 

Talk to a OUI lawyer for more information about obtaining a hardship permit and the waiting periods involved.

 

Is an OUI in Massachusetts a misdemeanor or felony charge?

 

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, an OUI is usually a misdemeanor crime.  However, a third or greater OUI conviction is a felony offenses.  Refer to the table below for more information.

 

What type of penalties might I face if I am convicted of a Massachusetts OUI charge?

 

Upon conviction of an Massachusetts OUI offense, a defendant can receive a variety of penalties including alcohol education / treatment.  A range of minimum penalties is set forth below: 

 


MASSACHUSETTS OUI / DUI PENALTIES

OUI CONVICTION TYPICAL PENALTIES
FIRST OUI OFFENSE

IF YOUR LAWYER CAN NEGOTIATE A CONTINUANCE WITHOUT A FINDING ("CWOF"):

  • one year probation;
  • substantial fines and fees;
  • 45 - 90 days Massachusetts license suspension.
SECOND OUI OFFENSE

IF YOUR LAWYER CAN NEGOTIATE A MINIMUM ALTERNATIVE DISPOSITION ON YOUR BEHALF:

  • two years probation;
  • 14 days in patient treatment program;
  • substantial fines and fees;
  • two year Massachusetts license suspension;
  • ignition interlock device required.
THIRD OUI OFFENSE
  • at least five to six months jail;
  • substantial fines and fees;
  • eight year Massachusetts license suspension;
  • ignition interlock device required.
OUI WHILE SUSPENDED FOR A PREVIOUS OUI
  • minimum one year house of correction sentence;
  • substantial fines and fees;
  • one year Massachusetts license suspension.
CHILD ENDANGERMENT WHILE OUI
(child under 14 in car while OUI)
  • at least 90 days house of correction sentence;
  • substantial fines and fees;
  • one year Massachusetts license suspension.

Note 1.  If you are charged with a first time OUI offense, you may be eligible for a Continuation / Continuance Without a Finding or CWOF.  A CWOF is not a conviction but it will result in the same penalties as if you were found guilty of the OUI.  It is also considered a first offense if you get arrested for a subsequent OUI, and it will cause enhanced penalties on any future OUI conviction(s).  A CWOF will stay on your record forever.

Will my defense lawyer be able to plea bargain / negotiate my Massachusetts OUI charge down to another (lesser) offense?

Possibly.  Plea bargaining and charge reduction are two areas that any experienced Massachusetts OUI lawyer would discuss with the prosecutor on the client's behalf.  Refer to the CWOF discussion in the table above and the 24-D discussion below.

Will a Massachusetts OUI conviction go on "my driving record?"

Yes.  An OUI conviction will go on your Massachusetts driving record and will stay on your record essentially forever. 

Just how much jail time will I have to do if I am convicted of an OUI in Massachusetts?

First time offenders often receive little to no jail time following a Massachusetts OUI conviction.  However, generally speaking, the amount of incarceration (jail or prison) received will depend on a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

•  your prior driving record especially your OUI history (including any DUI's / DWI's outside of Massachusetts);

•  your level of intoxication / BAC;

•  whether there was a collision involved;

•  whether there was bodily injury to another person in the collision;

•  which Massachusetts court your case is in;

•  what judge you are sentenced by;

•  whether there was a passenger especially a child in your car (especially a child under 14 yeaars);

•  whether the judge feels you have accepted responsibility for your actions.

 

What is meant by a Second Chance / 24-D disposition?

 

If you have a prior DUI / DWI / OUI offense that is more than 10 years old, your lawyer may be able to convince the court to treat you OUI as a first offense with first offense penalties.

 

I am licensed to drive in a state other than the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and I was cited for a OUI / DUI in Massachusetts.  Will my driver license be suspended?

Massachusetts only has the authority to suspend your right to drive in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Massachusetts is NOT one of the 45 states (along withy the District of Columbia) that are members of an agreement known as the "Driver License Compact."  These Compact states report out of state DUI type convictions to the driver's home state.  Keep in mind that even though Massachusetts is not a member of the Drivers License Compact, your home state may very well still learn of a Massachusetts OUI conviction.  If your home state does learn of the conviction, they will generally take action to suspend or revoke your license. 

If you are licensed in Massachusetts and you are convicted of a DUI / DWI offense in another state, Massachusetts will take steps to suspend your license if it learns of the out of state DUI conviction.  If your Massachusetts drivers license is suspended or revoked due to a suspension or revocation in another state, you must be reinstated your right to drive in that state before you can resolve any suspension / revocation in Massachusetts.  Once you have resolved the suspension or revocation in the other state, you must bring either a reinstatement letter or a current driving record from the state of suspension to any full service RMV office.

Will I have to install an Ignition Interlock Device on my car?

 

A ignition interlock device (IID) is a breath alcohol measurement device that is connected to a motor vehicle ignition.  In order to start the motor vehicle, a driver must blow a breath sample into the device which then measures alcohol concentration.  If the alcohol concentration exceeds the startup set point on the IID (0.02 percent), the motor vehicle will not start.

 

Under new legislation (Melanie's law), you will likely have to install an ignition interlock device in your car if you have two or more OUI convictions.  For a second or greater OUI conviction, you will have to install an IID for the entire length of any hardship permit and for the two years after you're eligible for reinstatement.  If you do not install the device, you will remain suspended.  The court may also order you to install an ignition interlock device under other circumstances.  Talk to your Massachusetts OUI lawyer to determine whether this requirement applies to you.

 

My OUI involved a crash.  Do I need to file an accident report?

 

An accident report is required in any crash where the damage to any one vehicle or property is over $1000, or if there is an injury to any person. The report should be filed within five days of the date of the collision.

I'm not a United States citizen.  Will a Massachusetts OUI / DUI conviction result in my removal from this country?

Probably not.  Typical, run of the mill Massachusetts OUI offenses (no priors; no injury accident) are not considered crimes of moral turpitude or aggravated felonies resulting in removal.  It is important to consult an experienced immigration lawyer about your situation just as you should consult with an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer about your pending OUI charge. 

Keep two points in mind.  First, it is very important to answer honestly all questions about prior arrests / convictions on immigration and Visa applications and forms.  Lying on these forms is often considered more serious than any OUI conviction.  Second, non-citizens must take extra care not to drive on a suspended or revoked drivers license.

What will a Massachusetts OUI / DUI do to my insurability?

If your insurance company finds out about your OUI one of two things are likely to happen.  Either your Massachusetts insurer will raise your rates or you may be cancelled or non-renewed. 

Are there special concerns for licensed pilots who get a Massachusetts OUI?

 

Yes.  The FAA has special reporting requirements for certain Motor Vehicle Actions including Massachusetts OUI convictions and certain administrative license suspensions.  Learn more here.

I missed my Massachusetts court appearance.  What do I do now?

Failing to appear (FTA) for court is to be avoided.  When you miss a court appearance, bad things happen.  At a minimum, the Massachusetts court typically issues a warrant for your arrest (sometimes known as a bench warrant).  Talk to a Massachusetts attorney as soon as possible.  You may have options; however, sometimes your only option is to turn yourself in on the outstanding warrant.  A new court date will then be scheduled.

Can I represent myself in court on my Massachusetts OUI or other criminal charge(s)?

Yes.  You have a constitutional right to represent yourself on any criminal offense no matter how serious including a Massachusetts OUI charge.  Keep in mind that Massachusetts DUI defense is complex as shown by the information in this website.  If you cannot afford to hire your own lawyer, you definitely should apply for court appointed counsel to represent you.  You have no right to court appointed counsel at the administrative suspension proceeding.

Copyright 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009


Websites, including this one, provide general Massachusetts OUI / DUI information but do not provide legal advice or create a lawyer / client relationship.  General information cannot replace legal advice specific to your case, problem, or situation.  Consult qualified Drunk Driving - DUI - OUI lawyers / attorneys for advice about any specific problem or drunk driving charge that you have.  Massachusetts lawyers are governed by the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct.  This website may be considered an advertisement for services under these Rules.  Information contained in this website is believed to be accurate but is not warranted or guaranteed in any way.  No lawyer associated with this website is specialized or certified in any way.  This site is not a solicitation for attorney services; rather, it is purely informational.  2013.

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