The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has passed a number of laws in the past decade that are very harsh on those who are arrested for operating under the influence (OUI). If you are stopped and charged with OUI, you will need to have a basic understanding of the penalties you could face under Massachusetts OUI laws.

Understanding the terms
Melanie’s Law was passed in October of 2005 in Massachusetts for the sole purpose of allowing stronger penalties in cases of OUI. Under the new rules, the following penalties are associated with OUI cases:

First offense
Under Massachusetts law, a conviction on a first offense OUI requires completion of a 24D program which is an alcohol safety program. In addition, those convicted will face an automatic 45-90 day loss of driving privileges, probation for a year and be required to pay fines and fees.

In some cases, you may lose your license for longer than 45-90 days and the court has the authority to sentence those convicted of up to 2 1/2 years in the house of correction. This penalty is seldom given for first offenses unless there is serious injury or death involved.

Second offense
Second offense are treated slightly differently under Massachusetts law; this is largely dependent on whether you have been previously convicted. The law allows for a 10 year look-back period to determine the penalties associated with a second OUI charge.

For those who have not been charged within the prior 10 years, there is an option called the Cahill Disposition. Under these rules, if you are convicted, you would lose your license for 45-90 days, complete an alcohol safety program and be required to install an ignition locking device. It is important to note that while the court may order a shorter license suspension, the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) may still require a license suspension for two years if the law requires such a suspension.

For those who have faced a conviction in less than 10 years, the penalties are much harsher. Under Massachusetts law, the court may impose a jail sentence of up to 2 1/2 years. In addition, you will most likely be facing a 2 year probationary period as well as a 14 day in-patient alcohol program and aftercare consisting of classes once a week for approximately 26 weeks. Keep in mind, if you are found guilty, your license could be suspended for up to five years, that is, a refusal suspension of 3 years and a conviction suspension of 2 years. If you receive a hardship license you will be required to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle for an extended period of time.

Third or more convictions
A third offense conviction is subject to up to 2 1/2 years in jail. In most cases, there is a mandatory six month sentence as well as an eight year loss of driving rights. Keep in mind, if a breath test has been refused, you will automatically lose your license for a period of not less than five years. The five year and eight year suspension will run consecutively.

Fourth offenses will also result in jail time of up to 2 1/2 years and of that, one year is mandatory. In addition, your driving rights will be suspended for 10 years and if you have refused a breath test, you will face a lifetime loss of your license.

Child Endangerment

Additional penalties may be imposed for those who have a child in their vehicle when they are stopped. In addition to OUI charges, you will also be faced with child endangerment charges which carries a prison sentence of upwards of 2 1/2 years and a license loss of 1 year.

Junior Operator Laws &CDL license Holders

There are also special rules for those who are under the age of 21 in addition to the license suspension noted above. If you are a CDL holder and are convicted of a second offense the RMV will take your CDL license for Life. Moreover, the Federal regulations are very strict regarding suspension for refusing to take a breath test and other motor vehicle offenses.

What is a Continuance Without a Finding (CWOF)?
In effect, you will be agreeing to certain conditions imposed by the court without going to trial. The overall result of a CWOF is you are pleading out, without being found guilty. Under these rules, you may have to meet certain conditions including:

  • Alcohol safety course
  • Curfew restrictions
  • Random alcohol tests
  • Reporting for probation meetings
  • Community service

In effect, you are completing a probationary period and must not face any new charges during the period of time. This could be as little as one year and may be longer. However, you will not face a guilty charge and when completed successfully, you will not have a conviction on your record. Any violation of a CWOF could result in a guilty finding and would likely result in jail time.

OUI charges in Massachusetts are taken very seriously and if you are stopped, it is important to speak with an attorney who focuses on OUI charges. For a Free Consultation Please call OUI Board Certified Attorney Jay Milligan at 617-851-7155.