In MA, a second offense for operating under the influence (OUI), also known as drunk driving, has serious consequences that can impact you and your family. As explained below, these penalties include substantial fines, loss of license, and even time behind bars.
If you have been charged with a second offense OUI, you may be feeling scared and alone. But you are not alone. OUI is the most common charge in Massachusetts courts, and we are here to help. The good news? As long as no one was injured as a result of the OUI, a second offense will be charged as a misdemeanor. If, however, your offense involved an injury accident, you may be facing felony charges. The information below may help you make the best decision for you and your family.
What Counts as a First OUI?
To understand the consequences of a second OUI, you have to know whether you already have a first OUI for purposes of Massachusetts’ Drunk Driving Laws. Many people assume that if their first OUI was a long time ago or in a different state, it doesn’t count. But Massachusetts law takes a broad approach to a first OUI, called “Lifetime Lookback.” In short, any previous OUI will count as a first OUI in Massachusetts. This means that even a charge from 35 years ago will count. An OUI in a different state will also count as a first OUI, especially if you had a Massachusetts license. More importantly, even if your first charge resulted in a CWOF (continuance without a finding), and you successfully completed the continuance period, a new charge may still count as a second OUI.
Possible Punishment for a Second OUI
Potential penalties for a second OUI can be severe. At the outset (and even before you are convicted), if you refused to take a breath test, the Registry of Motor Vehicles will suspend your license for three years. There is no option for a hardship license. You may appeal the suspension, however, but you must do so within 15 days. Given the harshness of a three-year suspension, in many cases, appeal is the best option. If you take the breath test, but record a breath alcohol content of .08 or higher, your license will be suspended for 30 days, even before conviction.
If you are convicted, you may also be facing fines of between $600 and $10,000 and a jail sentence of up to two-and-a-half years. Your license may be suspended for up to two years, in addition to the suspension the RMV imposes. And the court will likely order you to install an ignition interlock device (IID) at your own expense. An experienced OUI defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with a second or subsequent OUI.
What should I do?
In most cases, due to the harshness of the penalties for a second OUI, it makes sense to fight the charge. If you decide to opt for a plea bargain rather than fighting the charge, an experienced OUI defense lawyer can work with the District Attorney to get you the best possible outcome. Often, we are able to help get you into an alcohol treatment program instead of serving jail time.
We can also help you appeal the RMV license suspension for a breath test refusal. If you decide to fight the charge, there are many technical defenses we can raise, such as unreliable breath test or an improper motor vehicle stop. We can also make sure that if you decided not to take the breath test and choose to go to trial, the jury will never hear about your refusal.
If you or someone you know has been charged with OUI, the experienced call Attorney Sam Goldberg for a free case evaluation. He has extensive experience handling these cases in all jurisdictions in Massachusetts.