In Massachusetts, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle on a public way while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. To prove someone is under the influence of alcohol, the Government must establish the individual’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely was reduced due to their consumption of alcohol (or combination of alcohol and drugs) or their blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.08% or higher.
n response to the establishment of Melanie’s Law in 2005, Massachusetts imposes some of the strictest drunk driving laws and penalties in the country. A conviction for OUI/DUI can have serious consequences, including hefty fines, jail / prison time and/or probation, and a lengthy driver’s license suspension. For each subsequent OUI charge and conviction, the penalties imposed by the court and Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) increases.
While 1st and 2nd offense OUI charges are considered misdemeanors, third offense OUI/DUI and higher qualify as felonies and thereby result in much harsher penalties. As a felony, a fourth offense OUI carries the potential for a 2 ½ year jail sentence, including a one year mandatory jail sentence and 10-year license loss. Depending on whether the case is prosecuted in district or superior court, a conviction may result in a state prison sentence as opposed to serving time in county jail or the house of corrections.
The penalties resulting from a conviction for 4th Offense DUI are significant, including mandatory jail time, probation, a lengthy license suspension, fines and fees, and a requirement to remain alcohol-free.
For cases prosecuted in superior court, a conviction for 4th offense OUI carries a maximum penalty of five years in state prison. Cases prosecuted in district court carry a maximum penalty of 2 ½ years in the house of correction. Regardless of where the case is prosecuted, the defendant must serve a one-year mandatory minimum before being eligible for release.
The court may impose fines / fees that can range anywhere between $1,500 and $25,000.
The RMV will suspend your driver’ license for up to 10 years and you become eligible for a hardship license after 5 years. If a hardship license is granted, you will be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in your motor vehicle. The IID requirement lasts for the duration of the hardship license plus an additional 2 years after full driving privileges are reinstated. For a breath test refusal, one faces a lifetime license suspension without the possibility of obtaining a hardship.
Any additional charges associated with the arrest, including child endangerment, increase the potential maximum penalties. For instance, if you were driving with a passenger under the age of 14, further penalties may include a $1,000-$5,000 fine, ninety (90) days to 2.5 years in jail, and an additional one-year license suspension.
Additionally, there is no alternative disposition associated with a fourth offense OUI conviction. Although a defendant may be required to enroll in an alcohol awareness or education program, the enrollment will not lead to a reduction in penalties.
In Massachusetts, you are potentially entitled to two trials (bifurcated trials) when facing charges for a subsequent offense OUI. The first trial solely addresses whether you are guilty of the current or most recent OUI charge. During the initial trial, no evidence of the prior convictions can be introduced to the jury or judge.
If the defendant is found not guilty of the underlying offense, the case is over and there is no need for a second trial. If the defendant is found guilty of the underlying OUI/DUI, there may be a second trial where the prosecution is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant has previously been convicted of OUI/DUI on three prior occasions.
In many 4th Offense OUI cases, even where the prosecution’s case is strong, it makes sense to go to trial because of the penalties likely to be imposed in a plea agreement and/or the government may not be able to prove the existence of prior convictions. While the judge may consider that the defendant is charged with a 4th offense OUI/DUI, if the Government cannot prove the prior offenses the judge is limited as to what penalties may be imposed. For example, if the prosecution can only prove one prior conviction for 1st offense OUI, the judge cannot impose a fourth offense penalty.
With the potential for serious penalties following a conviction for Fourth Offense OUI, it is imperative that you hire an experienced and knowledgeable Massachusetts DUI/OUI attorney to defend your rights. Founder / Lead Attorney, Anthony R. Riccio, is a former prosecutor who handled hundreds of drunk driving cases during his time at the district attorney’s office and understands how the prosecution will attack your case. With a nearly 90% acquittal rate at trial on OUI/DUI cases, Attorney Riccio knows what it takes to win! If you are facing fourth offense OUI charges in Massachusetts, contact Riccio Law immediately for a free case evaluation.
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