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Massachusetts OUI Laws

Massachusetts laws relating to drugged and drunk driving are serious. While some know this crime as a DUI, in Massachusetts, it's called "operating under the influence" (OUI). No matter whether we are talking DUI, DWI, or OUI, it is illegal and dangerous. Punishment for this crime can be severe.

Conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs includes jail time, steep fines, lengthy driver's license suspension, and expensive ignition interlock requirements.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits and Implied Consent

"Per Se" BAC Limit 0.08%
Zero Tolerance (Underage) BAC Limit 0.02%
Enhanced Penalty (Aggravated) BAC Limit 0.2%
Implied Consent to Submit to BAC Test? Yes

Select Penalties

Minimum License Suspension or Revocation (1st, 2nd, 3rd offense) 1 year (reduced w/ alcohol education course)/2 years /8 years
Mandatory Alcohol Education, Assessment and Treatment Yes
Vehicle Confiscation Possible? Yes
Ignition Interlock Device Possible? Yes

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Massachusetts Operating Under the Influence Law

More commonly called "driving under the influence" (DUI), Massachusetts refers to its DUI law as "operating under the influence," or OUI. States often have different terminology, but it's the same crime.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts prohibits the operating of a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.8% or more or while you are under the influence of:

  • An intoxicating liquor
  • Marijuana or cannabis products
  • Any narcotic
  • A depressant, or stimulant
  • An intoxicating inhalant

Intoxicated means you have consumed enough alcohol or are under the influence of drugs to the point that you cannot operate a vehicle safely.

You don't have to be in motion for an OUI charge. If you are in the driver's seat with the keys or have put the keys in the ignition, you may face arrest.

Per Se Offense

per se OUI offense needs only evidence that you were operating a vehicle and that your BAC was 0.08% or more at the time, or 0.04% if you are operating a commercial vehicle.

As "per se" means “by or in itself," a positive test result is enough to prosecute you. You don't have to show evidence of impairment or be driving poorly. Meeting the legal limit of 0.08% BAC is enough to prove you are too intoxicated to be able to drive safely.

Implied Consent Laws

If suspected of a Massachusetts OUI, a police officer will ask you to submit to sobriety tests to assess your impairment. These can include a preliminary Breathalyzer or breath test and field sobriety tests. Based on the results of these tests, a police officer can arrest you on an OUI charge.

After your arrest, the police officer will ask you to submit to chemical testing. These tests include breath, blood, urine, and other bodily fluids.

Under Massachusetts implied consent law, when you signed up for the privilege to drive, you agreed to take a chemical test when a police officer suspects you of drugged or drunk driving. While you may refuse field sobriety tests without penalty, the same is not true for the preliminary Breathalyzer test or chemical tests. Test refusal will immediately suspend your driver's license. The police officer will impound your vehicle for 12 hours.

If you are over 21, a first refusal will suspend your license for 180 days. A second refusal will result in a three-year driver's license suspension. You can contest this suspension by requesting a hearing with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) within 15 days of your arrest.


OUI penalties are both criminal and administrative. Criminal penalties arise from your conviction. Administrative penalties involve your driver's license and may begin immediately following your arrest. The Massachusetts RMV manages your administrative penalties.

Criminal Penalties

Massachusetts drugged and drunk driving laws provide stiff penalties when convicted. All OUI convictions for persons 21 or older include required sentencing elements. These include:

  • $250 fee to the Head Injury Treatment Services Trust Fund
  • $50 fee to the Victims of Drunk Driving Trust Fund
  • $65 fee per month if placed on probation
  • Complete a substance abuse assessment and drug or alcohol treatment program as needed

A first drugged or drunk driving offense is a misdemeanor, provided you are 21 or older, and no aggravating factors are present. Your sentence may include:

  • Fined between $500 to $5,000
  • Up to two and a half years in jail
  • Probation for up to two years
  • Completion of a drug or alcohol education class
  • Driver's license suspension of one year
  • Complete a substance abuse assessment and treatment program if needed

A second OUI at any time is a serious misdemeanor. Your sentence is greatly increased. In addition to the fees listed above, your sentence can include:

  • Fined between $600 and $10,000
  • Jail sentence of 60 days up to two and a half years
  • Must serve a minimum of 30 days in the house of correction
  • Two years of probation
  • License revocation for two years
  • Minimum of two years with an ignition interlock device
  • Complete a substance abuse assessment
  • 14 days of inpatient substance abuse treatment

A third offense and subsequent offenses are felonies. For a third offense, you face a sentence of:

  • 180 days to five years in state prison
  • $1,000 to $15,000 fine
  • License suspension for years
  • Seizure and sale of your vehicle

Aggravating Factors

The officer will charge you with an enhanced OUI if certain aggravating factors are present during your arrest.

If you have a child aged 14 or younger in your vehicle, the officer will charge you with child endangerment OUI. For a first offense, you will spend a minimum of 90 days in jail, with a possible sentence of up to two and a half years. Your fines will range from $1,000 to $5,000 in addition to the sentencing element for a first OUI.

You will face a serious bodily injury OUI if you're involved in an accident that causes significant injury to another person. You will serve two and a half to 10 years in state prison.

Your charges are more serious, and your penalties increase if your BAC is 0.2% or more, you cause property damage, or you're driving on a suspended license.

Administrative Penalties and License Suspension

Your driver's license gets suspended in several different ways:

  • Chemical test refusal
  • Chemical test failure
  • Criminal suspension upon OUI conviction

If you refuse to cooperate with chemical testing, the officer will confiscate your driver's license. The RMV will suspend your privileges for 180 days for a first refusal.

Chemical test failure means your BAC is 0.08% or more, or you have illegal intoxicants in your system. The RMV will suspend your license for 30 days if this is your first OUI arrest.

A refusal or chemical test failure suspension is separate from a criminal suspension ordered by the court after a conviction. You must serve these suspensions regardless of the outcome of your criminal case.

Ignition Interlock Devices

Known as Melanie's Law, repeat offenders must install an ignition interlock device (IID) in any vehicle they drive. As of 2021, first-time offenders must install an IID for a hardship license. IIDs are for two years unless a judge or the RMV orders a longer term.

An IID is a small breath-testing device connecting to your ignition. You submit a breath sample before you can drive. If the IID detects any alcohol in your sample, 0.02% BAC or more, your vehicle won't start. If you pass, the IID will prompt you to retest periodically during your drive.

Request a meeting with a Register of Motor Vehicles (RMV) hearings officer to get started. This meeting will review your IID requirements and how a hardship license works.

You need another meeting with the RMV hearings officer at the end of your IID requirement. Your IID responsibility is not automatically removed. You will require approval from the RMV.

Hardship License

You will serve a suspension period before you qualify for a hardship license. For a first offense, the waiting period is three months. For a second offense, you must wait one year before you can apply. You cannot drive at all during this time.

You must enroll in a driver alcohol education program and complete substance abuse assessment and treatment if required. You must follow all probation requirements.

You need to have a documented hardship that requires you to drive. This can be work, school, or a medical need you cannot access using public transportation. You will need an official letter from your employer, school, or a medical professional proving this need.

A hardship license will allow you minimal driving privileges during a 12-hour period each day.

The RMV has the discretion to deny you a hardship license.

Zero Tolerance for Underage OUI

Massachusetts has a zero-tolerance law against underage OUIs. It is illegal for anyone under 21 to possess or consume alcohol. You will face an OUI charge if you have a BAC of 0.02% or greater.

If you're between 18 and 21, you will lose your license for 180 days for a first offense. If you are under 18, your suspension is for one year. At any age under 21, if you refuse a Breathalyzer or chemical tests, your suspension is for three years.

You can participate in the Youth Alcohol Program to reduce your suspension period.

Massachusetts OUI Resources:

Facing OUI Charges? Get Professional Legal Help Today

If you face an OUI charge in Massachusetts, you'll want to know your options before making your next move. A defense lawyer specializing in OUI cases can review your case and provide legal advice as you move through the court system. Get started by finding an experienced OUI defense attorney today.

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