Massachusetts OUI/DUI Laws, Penalties & Fines Explained

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Massachusetts uses the term operating under the influence ​(​OUI) to describe impaired or drunk driving. However, it sometimes also uses driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI). No matter the term, they all mean the same thing – driving or otherwise operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of both. This charge is generally a misdemeanor, but aggravating factors, such as prior OUI offenses, injury, property damage or death can make it a felony.

OUI and BAC in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is like most states in that it follows "per se" DUI law. This means that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher for drivers 21 years old and older. A driver found violating this law will have their permit or driver's license immediately confiscated for at least 30 days. The arresting officer will give the driver written notification of the license suspension, with no temporary driver's license issued, and notify the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) of the incident.

Drivers arrested for OUI can appeal their suspension in court while the charges are pending, but they cannot appeal with the RMV. When their suspension or revocation expires, the driver must meet with a hearings officer to reinstate their license. They fill out an application and hand the required documents to the officer, who will review them before making a decision.

First-Offense OUI and Penalties

According to NOLO, a first-offense OUI is a misdemeanor and carries these penalties in the commonwealth of Massachusetts:

  • Maximum 30 months in jail.
  • $500 to $5,000 fine, plus fees.
  • $250 assessment fee.
  • $50 victim fund fee.

The court may require drivers who have drugs in their system to attended drug education and treatment courses.

When the court determines that a driver is guilty, the RMV is notified of the conviction. A first offense carries a driver's license revocation of one year. After three months, the offender can apply for a 12-hour hardship license. This allows them to drive 12-hours a day with the installation of an ignition interlock device or IID.

After six months, the driver may apply for a permit that allows them to drive any time of the day; however, they must still have an IID installed in the vehicle.

First-Offense OUI Probation

The court may dismiss criminal charges and give a driver probation if they believe it to be beneficial to the driver. The offender must still pay any OUI fees and may have to perform up to 30 hours of community service. As part of a probation sentence, the court will require the offender to complete substance abuse education and counseling. After one year, the court will review the driver's progress; if there are no other violations, and the driver has been compliant, the court can terminate the sentence and dismiss any additional criminal charges.

Probation with first-offense OUI counts as a prior offense in determining how the court counts subsequent OUI violations. Eligibility for probation is also possible for drivers who have a prior offense that occurred more than 10 years before.

Second-Offense OUI and Penalties

In Massachusetts, OUI convictions stay on a driver's record forever, and it doesn't matter when the offender's first offense occurred. A second-offense OUI is a misdemeanor and carries these penalties:

  • 60 days to 30 months in jail, with eligibility for early release after 30 days served.
  • $600 to $10,000 fine.
  • $250 assessment fee.
  • $50 victim fund fee.

The court may require drivers who have drugs in their system to attend drug education and treatment courses.

After the RMV receives notification of the conviction, it will revoke the driver's license for two years. After one year, the offender can apply for a 12-hour hardship license. After 18 months, the driver may apply for a permit that allows them to drive any time of the day; however, they must still have an IID in the vehicle.

Third-Offense OUI and Penalties

A third offense OUI is a felony. It carries these penalties:

  • 18 days to 30 months in jail, with eligibility for early release after 150 days served.
  • $1,000 to $15,000 fine.
  • $250 assessment fee.
  • $50 victim fund fee.

The court may require drivers who have drugs in their system to attended drug education and treatment courses.

After the RMV receives notification of the conviction, it will revoke the driver's license for eight years. After two years, the offender can apply for a 12-hour hardship license. After four years, the driver may apply for a permit that allows them to drive any time of the day; however, they must still have an IID in the vehicle.

Aggravated or Felony OUI

Aggravating factors can turn any OUI from a misdemeanor into a felony, according to the law offices of Revelli & Luzzo of Worcester, MA. The penalties vary depending on the circumstances of the traffic stop. They include:

  • Having an excessively high BAC.
  • Driving impaired under age 21.
  • Driving on a suspended or revoked license.
  • Speeding excessively.
  • Causing an accident.
  • Causing bodily injury, death or property damage.
  • Impaired driving with a minor passenger.
  • Driving intoxicated in a school zone.
  • Operating a school bus while impaired.
  • Chemical or breathalyzer test refusal.
  • Prior convictions of OUI.

An offender with a passenger 14 years old or younger at the time of the traffic stop faces an additional charge of child endangerment. This carries a $1,000 to $5,000 fine, 90 days to 30 months incarceration and a license suspension of one year. If the driver's OUI resulted in an injury accident, their driver's license revocation goes up to 10 years, and if vehicular manslaughter occurred, it will be for life.

Melanie's Law and IID Installation

Melanie's Law is a state statute created in 2005 to increase OUI penalties in honor of 13-year-old Melanie Powell, a young girl killed by a drunk driver with multiple convictions. The law states that, on top of increased fines and jail time, drivers must have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in their vehicle if they have two or more OUIs.

Offenders must use the IID for at least two years after the reinstatement of their driving privileges. Removal of the IID occurs only when the driver has completed the program requirements and has not had other violations or lockouts for at least six months before the removal request.

CDL Drivers and OUI Penalties

Massachusetts considers OUI a major offense for CDL drivers. While the BAC limit is 0.08 percent for drivers with a standard license, the limit is 0.04 percent for those who hold a commercial drivers license (CDL). Commercial drivers with an OUI conviction not only face penalties associated with the incident, but can also lose their livelihood for years or even a lifetime.

Drivers convicted of their first OUI face losing their licenses for one year, or three years if transporting hazardous materials. A commercial driver with a second OUI can see a lifetime loss of their CDL. These penalties can occur whether or not the offender was driving a commercial or a personal vehicle when the arrest occurred

CDL Reinstatement After OUI

First-offense OUI drivers can have their licenses reinstated after fulfilling the license suspension penalty of one year. Drivers must reapply for their CDL and meet the requirements of the court and the RMV, which may also include substance abuse treatment and drug and alcohol education programs.

Drivers are required to pay any applicable fines and fees required by the court and requisite fees for license registration. Finally, the driver will have to take written or road tests as specified by the RMV, even if they previously had taken and passed them.

Zero Tolerance OUI and Penalties

In Massachusetts, alcohol consumption by anyone under 21 is illegal. Underage drivers with a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher face OUI charges. Those under 18 face the same maximum penalties as drivers between the ages of 18 and 21. They are:

  • 30 months of jail time.
  • $5,000 fine.
  • License suspension of one year.

Law enforcement relies on their powers of observation when it comes to minor drivers who refuse to take a sobriety test. As a result, the court will use their testimony and that of other witnesses as evidence for impairment. A minor driver refusing a test faces these penalties:

  • First refusal: License suspension of three years.
  • Second refusal: License suspension of three years.
  • Third refusal: License suspension of five years.
  • Four or more refusals: Lifetime suspension.

Implied Consent Law and Penalties

All drivers in Massachusetts automatically consent to chemical testing through blood, breath or urine samples when they get behind the wheel, as the state follows the implied consent law. Individuals arrested for OUI who refuse to take a chemical or breath test face administrative penalties, including:

  • First refusal: License suspension of 180 days.
  • Second refusal: License suspension of three years.
  • Third refusal: License suspension of five years.
  • Four or more refusals: Lifetime suspension.

Law enforcement will take immediate action against a driver who refuses to take a chemical test. While it is not a criminal offense, the following will occur:

  • The arresting officer immediately confiscates the driver's license or permit.
  • The officer gives the driver written notification of the license suspension or revocation and impounds the driver's vehicle for 12 hours.
  • Law enforcement notifies the RMV of the incident and suspension within 24 hours.

Massachusetts Open Container Law

Drivers and passengers possessing an open container of alcohol in the main area of a vehicle are in violation of Massachusetts laws if it occurs on a public roadway or in any place the public has access to, such as a parking lot. There are some exemptions to this law:

  • Passengers in vehicles for hire such as limousines or buses.
  • Passengers in the living area of an RV, motor home or trailer.
  • Partially empty bottles of wine from a restaurant if patrons purchased it with their meal. The resealed bottles must be placed in a trunk, glove compartment or behind the last seat if there is no trunk.

An open container violation carries a fine between $100 to $500. Minor drivers under 18 also face suspension of their license or permit, which is 180 days for a first offense and one year for subsequent offenses.