Test / Breathalyzer Refusal Penalties in Massachusetts for Drivers Over 21

If you are arrested and charged with Operating Under the Influence (OUI) in Massachusetts, you will be asked to submit to a chemical test / breath test to determine your blood alcohol level. Although it is not a crime to refuse the breathalyzer in Massachusetts, the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) will suspend your driver’s license or driving privileges in the state.

The length of the suspension depends on whether you have any prior OUI/DUI convictions or CWOFs. Below is a chart showing the accompanying license suspension periods.

Number of Prior OUIs   Suspension Period
None   180 days
One   3 Years
Two   5 Years
Three or more   Lifetime

Breathalyzer / Breath Test Refusal Penalties in Massachusetts Under 21:

In Massachusetts, drivers under the age of 21 who refuse the chemical test / breathalyzer after an OUI/DUI arrest will have their driver’s license or learner’s permit suspended for 3 years. The RMV will also impose an additional Youth Alcohol Program (YAP) suspension that begins upon the completion of the refusal suspension.

How Long Will My License Be Suspended If I Am Under 21 And Fail the Breathalyzer?

If you are under the age of 21 and arrested for OUI/DUI in Massachusetts, your driver’s license or learner’s permit will be suspended for thirty (30) days for failing the breathalyzer / breath test. The RMV will also impose the YAP suspension, which begins at the end of the 30-day suspension for the failed breath test.

Once the suspension period expires or the court issues an order for reinstatement after a dismissal or not guilty finding on the OUI/DUI charges, you must appear before a RMV Hearings Officer to have your license or driving privileges reinstated.

NOTE: If you subsequently receive a CWOF or guilty finding on the OUI/DUI charges, an additional license suspension is imposed. The period of the suspension increases with each subsequent conviction or CWOF.

Youth Alcohol Program (YAP) Suspensions for Chemical Test Failure or Refusal

Age:          Suspension:                Reduction for 24D Program:
Under 18 years old          1 year                6 months
18-20 years old          6 months                6 months.


Should I take the breathalyzer in MA if arrested for Operating Under the Influence?

In my opinion, you should never take the breathalyzer in Massachusetts unless you have not consumed any alcohol. While there are a number of factors to consider, two of the main reasons why I do not think you should take the breathalyzer are: (1) it is not a crime to refuse the breath test in MA, and (2) you can still be convicted / found guilty of OUI/DUI in Massachusetts if you register below the legal limit of .08% pursuant to a theory of “impairment.”

What happens if you refuse a breathalyzer in MA?

If you are arrested for OUI/DUI in Massachusetts and refuse the breathalyzer, your MA driver’s license will be suspended or your driving privileges in the Commonwealth will be suspended if you have an out-of-state driver’s license. The length of the suspension depends on whether you have any prior guilty findings or CWOFs for OUI/DUI.

Additionally, the police will do the following:

  • Take custody of your learner’s permit or driver’s license (if issued by Massachusetts);
  • Provide written notice of the suspension / revocation effective immediately;
  • Impound your vehicle for twelve (12) hours;
  • Notify the RMV of the suspension.
Can I Appeal if my License is Suspended for a Breathalyzer/Breath Test Refusal?

Yes, you can appeal your license suspension for a breath test / chemical test refusal in Massachusetts. To do so, you must appear at the Boston (Haymarket) RMV location for a hearing within 15 days of the chemical test refusal.

There are only 3 issues that can be challenged during the appeal hearing:

  • The police officer did not have reasonable grounds for the OUI arrest.
  • You were not placed under arrest.
  • You did not refuse the chemical test / breathalyzer.

For additional information related to drug and alcohol suspensions, see the below links: