Massachusetts takes drunk driving seriously, particularly after the passage of Melanie's Law on October 28, 2005. Its purpose is to enhance the penalties and administrative sanctions for Operating Under the Influence (OUI) offenders in Massachusetts.
How Can I Be Charged with an OUI?
In the Commonwealth, this crime can also be referred to as a "DUI” or “DWI, but it all means the same thing: a driver was caught behind the wheel while intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You may be charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol if you:
o Have a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or higher;
o Are under the influence or affected by an intoxicating liquor or drug;
o Are under the influence of a combination of drugs and alcohol.
The BAC limit is lower for commercial drivers, .04 or higher, and minors under 21, .02 or higher.
It's important to know that "drugs" doesn't refer only to illegal narcotics. Medications that were prescribed or sold over-the-counter (depression medications, pain killers or sleep agents) can also create an intoxicating effect. Legally possessing the medication is not a defense.
Driver's License Suspension
If you are convicted of an OUI, the Registry of Motor Vehicles will suspend your license. If this is your first time, the suspension is 1 (one) year. If it's your second, you are looking at 2 (two) years and so on.
What if I Refuse the Chemical Test?
Every person driving in Massachusetts is assumed to consent to a breath or blood test. An officer must inform you that if you refuse to submit to a test, your license will be suspended for at least 180 days for a first offense. If you are under age 21 or have prior offenses, your license will be suspended for at least three years, and possibly for life.
After serving the mandatory suspension time and completing various other requirements, a driver may apply for either a Hardship License or to have his or her license reinstated. After meeting all of the requirements for a Hardship License or reinstatement, visit the a local RMV branch for a Suspension Hearing.
Penalties range from jail time, to probation and a fine depending on the severity of OUI and your prior criminal history. If you have been charged with a OUI, you are facing a fine between $500-$5,000. You also face up to 2 1/2 years in jail and your drivers license will be suspended. If you caused serious bodily injury or death to another person, or if you've previously been convicted of vehicular assault or homicide, or if you have four priors within the past 10 years, it will be charged as a Class C Felony DUI -- that means possible prison time.
Remember, the higher your BAC, the more severe your penalties may be. Multiple convictions will also result in harsher sentences.
Here is a brief overview of Massachusetts OUI laws. For more information see After a DUI, DUI Expungement, and DUI and Insurance.
||MGL Chapter 90, Section 24
.08 or higher for adults (21 and over)
.04 or higher for commercial vehicle drivers
.02 or higher for minors (under 21)
|What is Prohibited?
OUI: Operating a motor vehicle while visibly impaired by alcohol or drugs or have a BAC of 0.08 percent or more.
Typical OUI Penalties
- Fines, fees and surcharges
- License suspension
- Ignition interlock device
- Jail time
- Community service
Ignition Interlock Device (IID)
You must install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) if:
1) You have 2 or more OUI convictions and are eligible for a hardship license.
2) You have 2 or more OUI convictions and are eligible for a driver's license reinstatement.
3) The court orders you to use an IID for any reason.
- A child was in the car at the time.
- The driver had a commercial license and at the time was driving a commercial vehicle.
- The defendant refused to submit to a blood or breath test.
- There was property damage or injury.
- The defendant was under 21 (“zero tolerance” laws commonly require a much lower blood-alcohol level, and impose longer license suspensions).
Under Age Penalties
|If you are between the ages of 18 and 21, you will be required to participate in a Youth Alcohol Program (YAP) and serve an additional 180 day suspension. If you are under 18 and are arrested for OUI, you'll be required to serve an additional one year suspension and attend the YAP program.
It's best to never drink or use drugs and drive. Select a designated driver ahead of time, who will stay sober. If you're impaired and don't have a designated driver, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation. If you do find yourself facing an OUI, you may wish to contact a DUI/OUI attorney for assistance.