Did you know that Massachusetts has the highest record of underage drinking cases in the country?
Massachusetts is known as “The college capital of the nation,” thanks to the large number of colleges and universities in the state. Time in college represents a significant part of students’ lives.
While many students spend their college time planning their future, forming close friendships and partying, there is another side of the coin. Some engage in excessive alcohol consumption and other risky behaviors such as drunk driving.
As attorneys, we have witnessed cases of students being charged with drug-related offenses, including DUIs. Besides criminal charges, implicated students may face other serious repercussions from their college.
Massachusetts Law on DUIs
Not all college and university students are of the legal drinking age, yet many will drink anyway. According to Massachusetts DUI law, it is illegal to drive or operate a motor vehicle when under alcohol or any drugs. The state considers someone too impaired to drive if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.
Driving under the influence, also known as operating under the influence, is a serious offense in Massachusetts. Since there have been many tragedies and carnage on the road due to DUIs, the state has enacted strict laws so law enforcement officers won’t hesitate to arrest and prosecute offenders.
Even though the state DUI laws vary, they result in significant penalties. Though a charge for possession of alcohol by a minor may result in a citation and community service, a DUI conviction may result in a jail term, driver’s license revocation, and a permanent record on the driving record.
College Police Authority
Campus police are obligated to enforce the Massachusetts general laws and university laws. College police have the right to investigate and arrest students for crimes within a campus or on any other property owned by the institution
However, in certain cases, they also have the right to arrest students for crimes outside the college.
For crimes involving drugs or other serious crimes, college police can work with police officers outside the institution to investigate and arrest the implicated students.
College police can also enforce laws, including DUI laws, by setting up DUI checkpoints on campus. Though sometimes people are not obligated to pass through a checkpoint, turning around at a checkpoint may give the officer reasonable suspicion to enforce a stop.
What Happens During a Student DUI Arrest?
Whether college police or local police have arrested a student for suspicion of DUI, the same basic rules apply. For starters, they don’t have to accept a breathalyzer test. However, refusing a breathalyzer for the first time in Massachusetts will result in a driving license suspension for 180 days.
According to the fifth amendment, a person has a right to remain silent when questioned by police, including the campus police. A student can request the presence of an attorney before answering any questions. However, some colleges can institute disciplinary actions for failure to cooperate during an investigation.
If the police choose to conduct a search warrant, a student can politely decline unless the police have a search warrant or probable cause, which is usually suspicion of drugs. An illegal search is a violation of the fourth amendment right. However, if a student lives on campus, it may be part of the college policy to inspect the property.
The police must inform the student of their Miranda rights during the arrest.
Students should avoid sharing too much when taken into custody, since any shared information can be used against them in court. In the case where the college police violate a student’s rights, the student should try as much as possible not to resist arrest and, if possible, document the incident.
The documented evidence should be taken to the college administration. Even though campus police have authority, it doesn’t mean that they should violate students’ rights
Factors That Can Affect the Severity of the Offense
A student’s first or second DUI charge is considered a misdemeanor. The charges and penalties can get severe if the following factors are also involved:
Blood/breath Alcohol Concentration– If the student’s BAC is more than 0.15%, the prosecutor can bring in more charges.
Reckless driving– If the student was driving recklessly, the prosecuting attorney could amend the charges to include reckless driving.
Bodily injury/ death– If a student causes bodily injury to another or death because of DUI, the offense will be a felony charge even if the student is a first-time offender.
Property Damage-Penalties will increase if the student damages property because of DUI.
Defense Process for Student Charged with a DUI
Just like other cases, there will be an arraignment where the defendant will hear the charges brought against them and have an opportunity to enter a plea.
The student’s defense attorney and the prosecutor can negotiate a plea bargain to solve the case without going through a trial. The prosecutor and the defense attorney may agree on deferred prosecution for first-time offenders.
The college can take disciplinary action against the student before or after the DUI conviction.
Public universities in Massachusetts must set guidelines according to the constitution, while private universities have a variety of policies usually set per the set laws.
Many colleges and universities in Massachusetts set their own timeline for conducting disciplinary hearings. The good thing is that students can have an attorney present during the proceedings. The presence of an attorney will help the students not only during the disciplinary hearing but also during a criminal proceeding.
Consequences of DUI Charge
An arrest for a DUI charge can result in life-changing consequences for students. In most cases, colleges will consider a student’s arrest as a violation of the college honor code resulting in disciplinary actions.
The consequences of DUI are as follows:
- A student can lose a scholarship or financial aid
- A DUI makes it hard for students to get into certain career paths
- The college may suspend or expel a student if convicted of DUI
- The student must attend an alcohol education class
- The student will face probation and fines
- Auto insurance may increase premiums for the student found guilty of DUI
- A student may be denied housing in the future by landlords
- An employer may refuse to hire someone with a DUI on their record
- Revocation of driving license
If the prosecution decides to drop the DUI charges against the student, the college should not continue to pursue disciplinary action if the offense occurred outside the campus.
Having the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney is one of the best ways to fight a DUI charge. Need a DUI attorney? Contact us today.