Massachusetts License Suspension: Can I Keep My License if I Have Been Charged with a DUI/OUI?
While some offenses allow for a hardship exemption, others carry a lifetime suspension. Law enforcement enforces strict penalties for motorists who drive impaired throughout Massachusetts. Citizens can be charged with an OUI, operating under the influence, or DUI, driving under the influence. Both charges carry various penalties. License suspension is at the core of these penalties.
What is the Difference Between a DUI and an OUI?
Though a DUI offense and an OUI offense refer to driving while impaired by alcohol, each charge carries a different weight in court. A DUI is considered a felony charge, while an OUI is used as a general term.
Under Massachusetts law, the offenses are defined as follows:
- OUI: Operating under the influence, drunk drivers are typically charged with an OUI for their first or second offenses. An OUI is a misdemeanor.
- DUI: Driving under the influence for a third offense or more will be charged with a felony DUI
There are a few exceptions to the above, depending on the circumstances. If a drunk driver causes an accident with serious injuries, the driver may be charged with a Felony DUI for a first or second OUI offense.
If the sustained injuries are life-threatening or catastrophic, where a victim is permanently disabled or loses a limb, the sentence is six months to ten years in prison.
What Are the Penalties for a DUI/OUI in Massachusetts?
While OUIs and DUIs are used to show the severity of the circumstances or repeated infractions, other variables will affect the penalties involved, including:
- The level of alcohol in the blood by breathalyzer
- If there was a child in the vehicle
License penalties are as follows:
- First offense OUI: License suspension up to one year
- 24D disposition explained: License suspension for 45 to 90 days
- Second offense OUI: License suspension up to two years
- Cahill Disposition: Allows the offense to be treated as the first offense with certain restrictions
- Third offense OUI: License suspension up to eight years
- Fourth offense OUI: License suspension up to ten years
- Fifth offense OUI: Lifetime suspended license without the possibility of a hardship exemption
License suspensions are a key proponent of Massachusetts drunk driving deterrents. Restoring the right to drive can be challenging and complex.
What Can I Do to Restore My License?
The steps to regain a driver’s license will vary by offense. Understanding Massachusetts laws will help to navigate the system and allow drivers back on the road faster:
- First offense OUI:
- A first offense OUI is given the lightest penalties. A suspended license may be reinstated if the defendant submits a request 10 days before trial and reiterates the request during the trial. It should be noted that a conviction will automatically suspend the license again.
- A “hardship license” may allow some the ability to drive certain hours. However, the hardship must be proven and is subject to the judge’s discretion.
- If convicted, license reinstatement is possible after sentence and fees are paid.
- Second offense OUI:
- Gaining your right to drive after a second OUI offense requires a few more obstacles. With the installment of an Interlock Ignition Device, a license may be reinstated after penalties have been made. The Interlock Ignition Device must be used for two years.
- In addition, there are reinstatement fees after suspension.
- The defendant may still apply for a hardship license to be awarded at the presiding judge’s discretion.
- Third offense OUI:
- A third offense is considered a Felony DUI and is far stricter on license reinstatement.
- An Interlock Ignition Device will be required, though the term may be adjusted for severity.
- Reinstatement fees will need to be paid after suspension.
- Defendants are still eligible for a hardship license, given certain conditions.
- Fifth offense OUI:
- There are no legal remedies for a fifth offense conviction of a felony DUI. In Massachusetts, a driver’s license will be permanently suspended without the chance of a hardship clause.
The above possibilities may change depending on the circumstances of the OUI or DUI. Every case is different and will have a unique method of reinstating a driver’s license.
For example, breathalyzers are paramount to OUI and DUI convictions in Massachusetts. However, in early 2021, the Alcotest 9510 breathalyzer machine was found to be defective and led to the wrongful convictions of thousands of citizens.
Are Breathalyzers Faulty and How Can That Impact My Case?
The breathalyzer was already a source of contention in the state before the Draeger Alcotest 9510 was suspected of being scientifically unreliable in a hearing last year. As a result, thousands of cases will likely be reassessed between June 2011 and April 18, 2019.
Since breathalyzers are central to any drunk driving case, excluding the evidence may overturn thousands of convictions. Notices were mailed to more than 17,000 defendants across Massachusetts.
For those who had their license suspended due to a potentially faulty breathalyzer, many could be back on the road soon.
Will the Restoration of Breathalyzers Statewide Affect DUI and OUI Convictions?
After several months without breathalyzers, Judge Robert Brennan has lifted the suspension and allowed law enforcement to resume the use of the Draeger Alcotest 9510. In his last ruling, Judge Brennan defended the suspension lift by citing, “there is no perfect source code; there is no flawless machine.”
However, the breathalyzer continues to be a source of controversy. Over the last year, the use of the breathalyzer has been banned and restored multiple times, questioning the extent of inaccuracies.
Some contributing factors that can cause erroneous breathalyzer readings include:
- Poor calibration
- Interference from other transmissions
- Exposure to chemicals
- Some health conditions, including diabetes
For those who may temporarily or permanently lose their license due to a breathalyzer reading, it is critical to understand the machine’s shortcomings.
A Better Judge Than a Breathalyzer
As the debate over breathalyzers continues, some critics of the machine support alternative sources of critical evidence. Some favor law enforcement training, observations, and sobriety tests.
Other states have dealt with faulty breathalyzer readings by making them inadmissible in court. For example, North Dakota still requires suspects to take a breath test but understands that it may not be accurate. Instead, blood tests are the preferred evidence to convict DUIs or OUIs.
If there are questions regarding the accuracy of a recent breathalyzer test in Massachusetts, the attorneys of Riccio Law have followed the events closely and understand the implications on past and future DUI/OUI cases.