Massachusetts has some of the toughest operating under the influence (OUI) laws in the country. Also known as driving under the influence (DUI), or driving while intoxicated (DWI), it is a common offense with some serious penalties. While it is never a good idea to drink and drive, a simple mistake can lead to an OUI charge, which can threaten your ability to drive, your job and daily life.
At Dhar Law, LLP, in Charlestown, our knowledgeable attorneys have years of experience representing clients charged with operating a vehicle under the influence. We also represent individuals who face other alcohol-related charges such as having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle. If you or a loved one is arrested for drunk driving, having an open container or any crime involving operating a motor vehicle, contact our offices today to schedule a consultation.
Massachusetts OUI Law
Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or higher, or while under the influence of drugs. For drivers under the age of 21, the limit is .02 percent BAC, which for most people would be triggered by only one drink. For drivers of commercial vehicles, the limit is .04 percent BAC.
Field Sobriety Tests
There are three primary standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) used by law enforcement to gauge whether a driver may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These tests include the Walk and Turn Test; Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN); and the One-Leg Stand Test. Each of these tests has specific signs police look for to score a driver on their field sobriety tests.
Field sobriety tests are not mandatory in Massachusetts. Each of these tests has limited reliability, and outside factors may cause a person to fail the test even if they are not intoxicated. However, whether you fail or refuse a field sobriety test, an officer may still arrest you if they suspect you are intoxicated.
Law enforcement utilizes chemical testing as evidence of a driver's intoxication. These tests measure the amount of alcohol in the body by testing breath, blood and/or urine. During a traffic stop, the police may ask a driver to breathe into a breath test, also known as a portable Breathalyzer. A field breath test is not mandatory, and they are less accurate than breath testing machines at the police station.
After an arrest, the police or troopers will have the suspect take a breath test at the station, or take a blood sample for testing. These devices are more accurate than the field Breathalyzer, but there are still some errors that can occur with these chemical tests that can be challenged in court. Additionally, the state has an implied consent law, which means that by driving on public roads, the driver has consented to providing a sample for testing. Refusal to submit to a chemical test will result in automatic penalties, including a driver's license suspension for 180 days for a first offense.
Drunk Driving Penalties
Conviction for a first DUI will result in up to 2½ years in prison, fines from $500 to $5,000, and the Registrar of Motor Vehicles (RMV) will administratively suspend the driver's license for one year. The driver may also have to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicle, to test for clean breath in order to drive.
A second OUI offense has increased penalties, and a third offense is considered a felony. Massachusetts has a "lifetime lookback" policy that looks at a driver's entire history to see if there was a previous violation. Additional penalties apply if a child is in the car at the time.
Drunk Driving Defenses
There are a number of areas an experienced criminal defense attorney can explore in order to defend their client from OUI charges. These include:
- Determining whether there was probable cause to stop and arrest the driver
- The accuracy of the chemical testing
- The reliability of field sobriety test results
- Whether prescription medicine or some other substance caused a false BAC reading
Put Our Experience And Knowledge In Your Corner
A skilled lawyer with success representing clients charged with drunk driving will investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the arrest to provide their client with all available defenses. Immediate action is important. Call 617-391-0592 or use our online contact form to schedule a meeting.