Massachusetts’s DUI/OUI Laws and Conviction Penalties

The consequences of a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI/OUI offense in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts, like all states, prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle in any public place while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, Massachusetts differs from other states in how it defines "operation" and "under the influence."

This article covers these important definitions and the penalties for an OUI (operating under the influence) conviction.

Massachusetts's OUI/DUI Laws

In order to prove an OUI charge (sometimes called "DUI") in court, prosecutors generally must show the defendant was:

  • operating a motor vehicle in a public place, and
  • under the influence of intoxicating liquors, marijuana, narcotics, intoxicating vapors, or any other drug.

However, these two elements require a bit more explanation.

How Massachusetts's OUI Laws Define "Operation" of a Vehicle

A driver who's caught speeding or running a stop sign can certainly falls under the definition of "operation." But under Massachusetts law, operation includes more than actually driving a vehicle.

Any person who intentionally makes an overt act that alone or in sequence could activate the motive power of the vehicle is considered to be operating the vehicle. With this broad definition, a driver can be convicted of an OUI in Massachusetts without actually putting the vehicle in motion.

How Massachusetts's OUI Laws Define "Under the Influence"

Under Massachusetts's OUI laws, a person is considered to be under the influence if:

  • his or her capacity to operate a vehicle safely is diminished due to ingested drugs or alcohol, or
  • he or she had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more.

In other words, the prosecution can prove the driver is under the influence by showing actual impairment or an excessive BAC.

Penalties for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd OUI/DUI Conviction in Massachusetts

The range of penalties for drivers convicted of OUI is set by statute and varies based primarily on how many prior OUI convictions the driver has within the driver's lifetime. Certain aggravating factors can also increase these penalties.

A first or second OUI is a misdemeanor and a third OUI is a felony.

Jail Time and Fines for Massachusetts Misdemeanor OUI Convictions

The penalties for a first, second, and third OUI conviction are as follows.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

Up to 2.5 years

60 days to 2.5 years (minimum 30 days served)

180 days to 2.5 years jail or 2.5 to 5 years prison (minimum 150 days served)

Fines

$500 to $5,000

$600 to $10,000

$1,000 to $15,000

An impaired driver who was transporting a passenger under 14 years old will face an additional $1,000 to $5,000 in fines and an extra 90 to two and a half years in jail.

Massachusetts OUI Probation

Instead of sending the driver to jail for the full term, the judge will often stay all or part of the jail sentence and place the driver on probation. While on probation, the offender will be subject to court supervision and random testing (and pay related fees) and must complete a substance abuse education or treatment program.

A driver must generally serve the minimum period of jail prior to release on probation (30 days for a second offense and 150 days for the third offense).

If a second-offense violator agrees to inpatient treatment, he or she can avoid jail and instead complete 14 days of inpatient treatment and two years of probation. Successful completion of the program can also reduce the driver's license suspension to only two years.

License-Related Penalties for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd OUI Offense in Massachusetts

A driver who's arrested for an OUI will normally face driver's license penalties. The type and duration of the penalty will typically depend on the driver's cooperation, level of impairment, and record of prior offenses. Prior offenses include any impaired driving incident that resulted in license suspension or similar penalties.

License-related penalties can result from an OUI arrest and/or conviction.

Massachusetts's Implied Consent Law

During an OUI investigation, the officer will generally request the driver to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test. If the driver refuses the test or produces a BAC of .08% or more, the officer will seize the driver's license and submit a report to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles (RMV). The RMV will review the report and the driver's record before issuing a notice of suspension.

License Suspensions for Refusing Alcohol Testing in Massachusetts

When a driver unlawfully refuses testing, his or her license will be suspended for:

  • 180 days for a first offense
  • three years for a second offense, and
  • five years for a third offense.

A driver with three prior test offenses or with a prior vehicular homicide conviction will be permanently revoked.

The suspension periods for a test refusal will be in addition to any license penalties resulting from an OUI conviction.

License Suspension for a Failed Alcohol Test in Massachusetts

When a driver produces a BAC of .08% or more, the officer will submit the results to the RMV for processing. Upon review, the driver's license will be suspended until the OUI criminal charges are resolved (maximum of 30 days).

Duration of License Revocations for Massachusetts OUI Convictions

As part of sentencing, the court will also order that the driver's license be revoked. The revocation periods are

  • one year for a first offense
  • two years for a second offense, and
  • eight years for a third offense.

The revocation period will be increased by one year if the offender was transporting a passenger under the age of 14.

Getting a Restricted License in Massachusetts After an OUI Revocation

Suspended or revoked drivers are generally eligible for limited driving privileges by obtaining a hardship license. The hardship license requires the installation and use of an ignition interlock device (IID). Additionally, the hardship license may restrict operation to only certain hours of the day or to certain locations. Applicants are required to serve a portion of the suspension period prior to application.

Offenders who refused testing aren't eligible for a hardship license.

Repeat offenders are required to hold a restricted interlock license for a period of time and may have to complete treatment prior to reinstatement.

Massachusetts's Underage OUI Law

Drivers who are under the age of 21 and are caught driving with a BAC of at least .02% can face driver's license penalties.

For an underage OUI offense, the driver's license will be suspended for 180 days. However, this suspension can be avoided if the offender completes the Youth Alcohol Program.

If the underage driver refuses the breath test, his or her license will be suspended for 180 days, followed by a three-year suspension under Massachusetts's implied consent laws. Underage drivers with prior offenses will face increased suspension periods.

Massachusetts's Pretrial Disposition Program for First OUI Offenders

A driver who's charged with a first-offense OUI may be eligible for a pretrial probation agreement. If the driver can complete one year of probation (including a 45- to 90-day license suspension and possible community service), a driver alcohol education course, and treatment, the judge will dismiss the OUI charge completely.

The pretrial disposition is only available once every ten years and can be counted as an OUI prior conviction for future violations.

Talk to a Massachusetts OWI/DUI Attorney

If you've been arrested for driving under the influence in Massachusetts, you should talk to a qualified OUI lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced OUI attorney can advise you on your options and help you decide on the best way to handle your case.

FACING A DUI?

Talk to a DUI Defense attorney

We've helped 115 clients find attorneys today.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you

Protect Yourself. Talk to a Lawyer About Your Case

Enter Your Zip Code to Connect with a Lawyer Serving Your Area

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you