Operating Under the Influence, commonly referred to as OUI or DUI (driving under the influence), is one of the most commonly charged crimes in Massachusetts. Although a conviction for first offense OUI is unlikely to result in any jail time, the consequences can be far reaching. In addition to being placed on probation and required to attend alcohol classes, a first offense OUI conviction results in a license suspension or revocation, hefty fines and fees, and could impact your job status.
For most people, getting arrested for 1st offense OUI/DUI is an incredibly intimidating and embarrassing process. Often, it is the person’s first time getting in trouble and being involved with the criminal justice system. Considering the impact of an OUI charge, including an immediate license suspension/revocation by the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), it is crucial to have a skilled Massachusetts OUI/DUI attorney guide you through the legal process and discuss all available options.
Massachusetts has some of the most complex OUI/DUI laws in the country. The prosecution can prove a person is guilty of operating under the influence based on their blood alcohol level or pursuant to a theory of impairment. In Massachusetts, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle on a public way with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or greater. Additionally, it is illegal to operate a vehicle on a public way while impaired or under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, narcotics, and other intoxicating substances, including prescription medications.
When an individual refuses the breathalyzer or their BAC is below .08%, he or she can still be found guilty of operating under the influence if it is proven that their ability to operate a motor vehicle safely is reduced due to their consumption of alcohol and/or drugs. However, “operating” a motor vehicle does not mean that you have to be driving; it may be sufficient to show that the individual was in the driver’s seat with the engine running.
Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws (M.G.L.) Chapter 90 Section 24, the penalties for a first offense OUI include up to 2.5 years in jail, a $500-$5000 fine, or both, and a license suspension/revocation. However, jail time is unlikely and a conviction usually results in one-year probation, a license suspension of up to one year, and the requirement to complete an alcohol education course referred to as the 24D Program.
If you are facing a first offense OUI, you’re probably wondering what to expect and what your options are. Typically, you have two options: a plea bargain pursuant to M.G.L. c. 90 §24D or trial.
In Massachusetts, a typical plea agreement for 1st offense OUI allows for the charge to get dismissed after one year of probation so long as certain conditions of probation are met. The terms of the plea require the defendant to admit to sufficient facts for the charge of OUI, also called a continuance without a finding (“CWOF”), and generally includes a 45-day license suspension and a requirement to attend and complete alcohol education classes through the 24D Program. Although the plea deal allows you to avoid a conviction and get the charge dismissed after one year of probation if all the conditions have been satisfied, you would be charged with a second offense OUI/DUI if ever arrested for OUI again in Massachusetts.
If you do not want to accept a plea deal, you have the option of going to trial on your case. With 1st offense OUI/DUI cases being handled in district courts in Massachusetts, you can have a jury trial where six jurors decide whether you are guilty or not guilty. As an alternative, an individual can proceed with a bench trial where the judge decides the verdict. Whether it’s a bench trial or jury trial, the prosecutor must prove you are guilty of the OUI/DUI charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
While both options have pros and cons, the facts and circumstances in each and every case are different. The strength of the evidence is generally the most important factor in determining whether to proceed to trial, but there are a number of considerations that may go into the decision. An experienced Massachusetts OUI/DUI lawyer will evaluate the evidence in your case and guide you through the legal process.
To be found guilty of operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the prosecution does not have to prove you were drunk but must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
The easiest way to establish guilt is by showing the defendant’s blood alcohol level was .08% or greater. However, a significant number of OUI/DUI cases do not include a breath test or any other physical evidence.
In OUI/DUI cases where there is no breathalyzer, the prosecution usually relies on the testimony of the arresting officer who offers his/her opinion about the defendant’s sobriety. At trial, the officer testifies about their observations leading up to the arrest, including observations of the defendant’s driving and performance on the field sobriety tests, if administered. Generally, the arresting officer will testify that the suspect smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot or glassy eyes and slurred speech.
Depending on the nature of the evidence, including the suspect’s behavior toward law enforcement and whether there was erratic driving or multiple traffic violations, first offense OUI/DUI cases where the evidence is limited to the arresting officer’s opinion may be worth taking to trial in Massachusetts. Although being found guilty results in a misdemeanor conviction on your record and a longer license suspension, the punishment for a conviction is similar to the plea agreement.
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First offense OUI is one of the most commonly charged crimes in Massachusetts. These charges can happen to anyone and may lead to serious consequences in both your personal and professional life. Founder of Riccio Law, Anthony R. Riccio, is a former prosecutor and prosecuted hundreds of OUI/DUI cases in Massachusetts. He understands how the government approaches these charges and knows what it takes to win your case.
With offices in Quincy and Attleboro, Riccio Law represents people on first offense OUI/DUI charges all throughout Massachusetts. Contact our offices today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about our services.