In Massachusetts, the terms operating under the influence (OUI), driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI) are synonymous. The official charge is Massachusetts is known as Operating Under the Influence (OUI). This charge is a criminal offense in which a person is found to be operating a vehicle after having ingested any alcoholic beverage or chemical substance which impairs their ability to drive safely. The passage of Melanie's Law in 2005 enhanced the penalties attached to OUI offenders in the state of Massachusetts. These laws may also be applied to those found to be in operation of a boat, aircraft, etc., which carry different blood alcohol contents than driving.
The field sobriety tests used by police officers out in the field in traffic stops consist mainly of the walk-and-turn test, the one-leg stand test, alcohol breath test, and horizontal gaze nystagmus test. These tests are used to supply an officer with 'probable cause' to arrest the driver on suspicion of OUI. On average, the government claims that these tests range from 83-91% reliable in establishing that a driver is in fact under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The walk-and-turn test requires an individual to first keep the arms at his or her side, and to place his or her feet heel to toe. Then the officer will instruct the instruct the individual to take nine heel-to-toe steeps, turn in a certain manner, then take nine heel-to-toe steps back. The walk-and-turn test also requires a physical test, in which the officer evaluates the individual's performance based upon certain cues including but not limited to whether the person lost balance, started too soon, stopped while walking, and touched heal to toe, etc. During this time the officer is looking for two or more indications of the persons intoxication which would constitute probable cause for the individual's arrest for OUI.
The one-leg stand is another test often employed by officers. This test requires an individual to stand with feet together, arms at their side and follow the officer's instructions. The person is commanded to raise one leg about six inches off the ground with toes pointed outward while keeping both legs straight. The person is then instructed to count out loud as long as the officer requests. There are four specific cues that the officer looks for during this test: any swaying while balancing, using the arms to balance, hopping, or putting a foot down during the test. If you put your foot down three or more times during the thirty-second period the police consider you unable to complete the test. If you have two or more cues you also fail the test.
The horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN) allows the officer to check for the involuntary jerking of the eye. Unlike other field sobriety tests, experts claim that this test is considered impossible for a person to conceal or compensate for in any way. The officer must observe the eye for three separate cues which pertain to eye movement for lack of smooth pursuit, nystagmus at maximum deviation, and the angle at which the onset of nystagmus occurs prior to forty-five degrees. Expert testimony is required in court.
In addition to these tests, if a driver is suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, some form of chemical test, such as breath, blood, or urine testing is required. While these tests are technically voluntary, refusal carries a possible penalty such as suspension of driving privileges. A Breathalyzer unit may be used, which is a small hand-held device that measures the driver's blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). This may be done roadside, at the detainment center, or at a hospital. Blood or urine tests can also be done at a hospital.
Pursuant to M.G.L.A. 90 § 24, a person may be found guilty of Operating Under the Influence (OUI) if they are:
- At least 21, and
- Register at .08% or higher when tested for your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
If the person is younger than 21:
- Administrative penalties will be imposed if they test at .02 or higher,
- Plus standard charges at .08 or higher.
In OUI cases, the prosecution must prove:
- The car was operated,
- On a public way or area members of the public have a right of access to, and
- The operator of the vehicle was under the influence of some intoxicant.
Summary of Penalties for OUI in Massachusetts
|Maximum 2.5 years
|For your first offense the court may allow you to complete an alcohol education course to reduce your license suspension period
|Age 21+ = 45-90 days
Less than 21 = 210 days
|Minimum 30 days
Maximum 2.5 years
| Third Offense
|Minimum 150 days
Maximum 5 years
| Fourth Offense
|Minimum One year
Maximum 5 years
| Fifth Offense
|Minimum Two years
Maximum 5 years
This information is assembled by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.
If you are convicted of an OUI, the penalties can be harsh and include imprisonment, significant fines, and suspension of driver's license, probation, community service sentence, and mandatory enrollment in Driver Alcohol Education Program (DAEP). As a Boston OUI lawyer, Patrick J. Murphy is well versed and highly experienced in aggressively defending OUI cases. This legal experience gives the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy a competitive edge and the ability and understanding to help clients defend their rights and avoid these penalties. If you or someone you know is facing OUI charges, it is highly recommended that you seek qualified legal counsel, and with his thorough knowledge and expertise in the field, Boston OUI Attorney Murphy is the likely choice. Contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy, Esq. today for a free and confidential legal consultation by calling (617) 367-0450 or completing the contacts tab on our website.