Massachusetts DUI Laws
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UPDATED: Aug 19, 2019
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Over the last 25 to 30 years, most US states revised and strengthened their motor vehicle codes to toughen laws dealing with DUI and DWI type infractions.
Some states have modified their laws several times during this period adding new offenses and stiffer penalties for existing offenses.
Massachusetts is no exception to this trend and now has one of the most stringent sets of DUI, DWI and OUI laws in the nation. These offenses are grouped together under the Massachusetts motor vehicle code:
- DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating drugs)
- DWI (driving while intoxicated or under the influence)
- OUI (operating under the influence)
Chapter 90 of Massachusetts General Law establishes the criteria for DUI offenses and sets punishments for these offenses.
What is the legal limit in Massachusetts?
Like most states, it is illegal to drive in Massachusetts with a blood alcohol level greater than .08%. For minors, under the age of 21, the acceptable legal blood alcohol limit has been reduced to .02%.
This provision effectively discourages younger drivers from drinking. The legal drinking age in Massachusetts is 21 and younger drivers now know that the consumption of any alcoholic beverages before getting behind the wheel of an automobile will not be tolerated.
What are the most common punishments for DUI offenses?
Maximum penalties for a first DUI offense in Massachusetts include:
- Prison term of up to 2.5 years
- Fine of $500 – $5000
- One-year license suspension
Alternative minimum guidelines for a first offense include:
- Year’s probation
- 45 to 90 day suspension
- Mandatory 16-week education program, to be paid for by the defendant
Maximum second offense penalties include:
- Mandatory jail time, from 60 days – 2.5 years
- Fines up to $10,000
- 2-year license suspension
Alternative minimum sentencing guidelines for second offenses also require:
- 2 year license suspension, though work and education hardship usage may be considered after the first year
- 2-week in-patient treatment program, at the expense of the defendant, would be required
- 2 years of probation
- Automobile interlock device would also be mandated for two years
Note: First offense guidelines may be used if 10 years or more have passed since a prior conviction.
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A third offense is automatically considered a felony and carries:
- Mandatory prison term of from 6 months to 5 years
- Fines up to $15,000
- Seizure and sale of the defendant’s vehicle
- 8-year license suspension
No sentencing alternatives are available for this category of offense.
A fourth, felony, conviction doubles the minimum prison term, from 1 – 2 years and increases license suspension time to 10 years. Fines increase to a maximum of $10,000.
A fifth conviction brings a lifetime license suspension/revocation, a minimum of 2 ½ years in prison and fines up to $50,000.
If a DUI/OUI offense includes serious bodily injury or death, additional charges and much more serious penalties will apply.
What is Melanie’s Law?
Melanie Powell was a 13-year-old girl killed by a drunk driver, a repeat offender, while on her way to a birthday party in 2003. Melanie was one of more than 150 people killed by drunk drivers during that year, but it was her story that touched off a firestorm of protest leading to the enactment of new DUI legislation in October 2005, 2 years after her death.
Highlights of Melanie’s Law include the following provisions:
- Driving drunk with a child in the car under the age of 17 is a new crime
- Minimum penalties for repeat offenders are increased
- Judges may order the vehicles of repeat offenders impounded and sold
- Mandatory lifetime license revocation for a person who has caused the death of another while drunk and later commits another DUI offense
- Repeat offenders required to install interlock systems in their automobiles
- Having a blood alcohol content .20% more than twice the legal limit is a new crime, aggravated drunken driving
- Increased penalties for suspects refusing to take a breath or field sobriety test
- Allows past convictions to be more easily introduced as evidence
- Driving drunk with a license suspended because of a previous DUI conviction is now considered as two crimes
What can I do if I’m stopped for DUI?
The best thing any driver can do in these circumstances is to immediately call a reputable attorney. It is always good to be cooperative with police officers at the time of an incident.
At the very first opportunity, however, contact an attorney who is experienced in DUI and DWI cases.
Many law firms specialize in these types of cases and can help defendants successfully navigate through what has become a very complex legal process. A competent DUI attorney can and will negotiate the best possible outcome for each client.
Many advertise their services through the media and have solid reputations in their communities.
Selecting an attorney is an important process and time should be taken to consult with friends, family, and other associates who can offer advice and referrals for legal services in your area.