Massachusetts DUI Laws & Penalties

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Get the Facts on the DUI Penalty You're Facing

The following is a list of both the most likely and the maximum penalties you are facing if you are found guilty of an OUI in Massachusetts. Drunk driving cases are a very complicated area of the law, and this information can be hard to understand. That's why I try to lay out "The real deal" for you, and I'll also be happy to speak with you to explain it to you in plain English.

Also remember OUI laws change frequently, and the impact of a prior conviction on your record can have unforeseen negative consequences in the future. The Registry also regularly changes requirements for getting your drivers license reinstated, or getting a hardship license.

If you've been arrested, you want to know what you are facing, and what your options are. That's why it makes sense to get a case evaluation from an experienced lawyer who handles drunk driving cases everyday.

If you fight the case and win at trial, your penalty is nothing. That's what I focus on in my law practice. I win my OUI cases more than 2/3s of the time. I can also help you work out the minimum penalty allowed by law if you chose to plead guilty (or CWOF).  Please contact me for a consultation on what I can do try to win your case. (781) 380-7730

- Attorney Russell Matson

Massachusetts OUI Law - First Offense Penalty

  • Jail: Not more than 2 1/2 years House of Correction
  • Fine: $500-$5,000
  • License suspended for 1 year; work/education hardship considered in 3 months; general hardship in 6 months

Breath Test Refusal - (1st Offense OUI)

Just for refusing the breath test after an arrest, your license is immediately suspended for 180 days, before you even have appeared in court.

Alternative Disposition (1st Offense OUI)

  • Plead to Continuance without a Finding aka CWOF. It is similar to, but not technically a guilty plea. (More info on a  CWOF.)
  • Pay a number of fines and court fees (over $2500 in total), as well as take a hit to your insurance.
  • Unsupervised probation for one year.
  • Mandatory participation in 16 week (1 hour) alcohol-drug education (DAE) program paid for by defendant.
  • License suspended for 45 to 90 days (not including any penalty for breath test refusal)
  • License suspension is 210 days for drivers under age 21.
  • You are eligible for a hardship license right away, in most cases.

The Real Deal on First Offense OUI Penalties:

The minimum penalty (above) is almost always available for a first offense DUI/OUI plea, if your lawyer has OUI defense experience and knows what to ask for, and as long as there is no accident, injury, or other extenuating circumstances. In addition, a smart attorney will include all other charges in the plea deal, including civil speeding ticket/moving violations as part of the same penalty, saving you fines and insurance increases.

Massachusetts OUI Law - Second Offense Penalty

  • Jail: Not less than 60 days (30 day mandatory), not more then 2 1/2 years
  • Fine: $600-$10,000
  • License suspended for 2 years, work/education hardship considered in 1 year; general hardship in 18  months. (Note: In almost every case, with a breath test refusal or failure you won't be eligible for a hardship or full license restoration for at least 3 years total.)
  • As of January 1, 2006 - Interlock device installed in your car at your own expense for 2 years, when you become eligible for hardship or license reinstatement.

Breath Test Refusal (2nd Offense OUI)

If you refuse to take a breath test on a 2nd offense DUI charge in Massachusetts, your license is immediately suspended for 3 years, befure you even appear in court.

Alternative Disposition (2nd Offense OUI)

  • 2 years probation
  • 14 day confined (inpatient) alcohol treatment  program paid for by the defendant
  • License suspended for two years, work/education hardship considered in 1 year; general hardship in 18  months.
  • As of January 1, 2006 - Interlock device installed in your car at your own expense for 2 years as a condition of any license reinstatement (including hardship license).
  • If your prior offense is over 10 years ago, you may be eligible for a 24D disposition, which would only be the penalties of a first offense. The Registry, however, would still treat you as a 2nd offender for license reinstatement.

The Real Deal on 2nd Offense OUI Penalties:

See my second offense OUI penalties page for detail on the implications of a 2nd offense drunk driving defense. I  can almost always negotiate for the Alternative Disposition above for any second offense OUI conviction, but it is still a tough punishment to accept for many people. Given that there isn't that much risk of a worse outcome if you choose to fight the case in court, most people choose to take a chance at beating the case and getting no penalty, even if the case may be weak - sometimes you don't have much to lose by fighting it.

Remember, even if the prior is in another state, or decades old, you will be forced to get an interlock device installed in your car as a condition of license reinstatement. The Registry is harsh on this point, and there is nothing any lawyer can do about it.  If you are facing a 2nd offense DUI, this in itself is a good reason to strongly consider fighting the case.

Massachusetts OUI Law - Third Offense Penalty Penalty

  • Jail: Not less than 180 days (150 day mandatory), not more than 5 years State Prison (felony status)
  • May be served in a prison treatment program
  • Fine $1,000-$15,000
  • License suspended for 8 years, work/education hardship considered in 2 years; general hardship in 4 years
  • Commonwealth may seize, keep, and/or sell your vehicle.

The Real Deal on 3rd Offense OUI Penalties:

For any third offense OUI conviction, you are facing a mandatory 5-6 months in jail if found guilty. For a 3rd offense charge, this is a good reason to fight the case and look for a chance to win and avoid jail time.

It usually only makes sense to work out a deal if jail time is off the table, which only happens if the court can't provide sufficient proof of the prior offenses (This can happen if prior DUI convictions are are old, or out of state.)

More on third offense DUI charge strategies.

Massachusetts OUI Law 4th Offense Penalties

  • Jail: Not less than 2 years (1 year minimum mandatory), not more than 5 years in State Prison (4th Offense OUI is a Felony Offense)
  • Fine $1,500-$25,000
  • License suspended for 10 years, work/education hardship considered in 5 years; general hardship in 8 years
  • Commonwealth may seize, keep, and/or sell your vehicle.

The Real Deal on 4th Offense Penalties:

Everything about a 3rd offense applies to a 4th, 5th or subsequent drunk driving charge. Even a small chance of winning the case is worth the risk, since it is probably your only chance to avoid jail time. You need to consider fighting your case at trial in almost all cases.

Massachusetts OUI Laws - 5th Offense Penalty

  • Jail: Not less than 2 1/2 years (24 mos. minimum mandatory), not more than 5 years (felony status)
  • Fine $2,000-$50,000
  • License Revoked/Suspended for life, no possibility of a hardship license.

If convicted on a sixth (may 6th), seventh (7th), or greater OUI offense, the punishment and mandatory jail time you are risking if found guilty will even longer. Call me for details.

OUI - Drugs

You can be charged with operating under the influence of any intoxicating substance, including drugs like marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and even prescription drugs.

The charges and penalties are essentially the same as a drunk driving charge, but the defense is a bit different. And the charges can often be much harder to prove, since there is no "breathalyzer" for drugs.

Read more on how we fight and win OUI Drugs cases.

OUI With Serious Bodily Injury - Penalties

If you are charged with an OUI where someone is injured, the case can get much more complicated, and extremely serious.

You can face penalties of 6 months to 2.5 years in House of Correction or 6 months to 10 years in State Prison depending on how it is charged and prosecuted.

Even a drunk driving charges where there is possibly a minor injury or accident can get messy to resolve quickly. We've had cases where a person had minor to non-existant injuries, but the prosecutor didn't want to let the case go without multiple confirmations that the person wasn't really hurt.

So it can take some legal wrangling to fight and win OUI with injury cases, or even get a reasonably standard plea deal for a continuance without a finding.

But we have a lot of experience with these situations, so if your OUI charge has a possible serious injury attached, let me know right away, and we'll go over it together.

Legal Help and Advice on Masschusetts Drunk Driving Laws

Remember that almost no case is unwinnable. Some cases do have challenging facts, and I always give my clients a realistic view of what we can expect for an outcome. But an experienced attorney like myself will always find the positive elements in a case to establish reasonable doubt.

I've won many cases that looked nearly hopeless. Even when the facts look bad and there isn't much for us to work with, there's always a real chance that the DA or the police will fumble at trial and give us a chance to win.

You'd be surprised how often this happens. Prosecutors often drop the ball on evidence procedures, and are also frequently unable to prove prior offenses, especially if the previous convictions are more than a decade old. So even if you lose, you may not be facing the mandatory penalties you think.

If you are looking at jail time on a 3rd, 4th, or 5th offense OUI, it nearly always makes sense to go to trial, and make them prove their entire case against you. I've won many multiple offense drunk driving trials.

Call me and we'll talk about what I can do for you.

Attorney Russell Matson


Further Reference - M.G.L. Chapter 90, Section 24 of the Mass Drunk Driving Statute (not easy reading!)

My Melanie's Law page (Massachusetts drunk driving laws passed Oct 2005)



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