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DUI Laws in Massachusetts

In this article, we review DUI laws in Massachusetts and the consequences you may face if you’re caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

9
minute read

ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Have you recently been pulled over and charged with a DUI? You’re not alone. Additionally, voluntary entry into rehab might help. This article reviews laws, penalties, and general legal procedures for DUI in Massachusetts.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

DUI vs. DWI

Have you recently been pulled over and charged with a DUI in the state of Massachusetts? You’re not alone.

In Massachusetts, 2.2% of adults report driving after drinking too much … at least once a month. [1]

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There’s sometimes confusion between the terms DUI and DWI as some states use each term for different charges. A DUI is defined as “driving under the influence” while a DWI is “driving while intoxicated”. [2] In Massachusetts, you may also be charged with an OUI which means “operating under the influence”. All three of these terms are interchangeable and, therefore, will be used against you if you either drive while drunk on alcohol or high on drugs.

When it comes to alcohol, police officers test blood alcohol content, BAC, to see if it’s over the legal limit. If you’re 21 or older, the legal limit is 0.08% across the country. If you’re under 21, the legal limit in Massachusetts is 0.02%. [3] Penalties can be higher if your BAC is over 0.15%.

Furthermore, there are specific rules within Massachusetts which will determine the consequences you face due to a DUI. For example, if you’re on probation, you’re not allowed to have over 0.01% BAC in your system. Therefore, you’ve broken multiple laws and will be charged accordingly. We discuss these situations in more detail below.

Sobriety Checkpoints

While driving around the Pilgrim State, you may run into a sobriety checkpoint…especially if you’re in a heavily populated area, such as Boston or Springfield, where drinking is centered.

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A sobriety checkpoint is a highly visible location where drivers are stopped to verify their ability to drive. If suspicious, a police officer may ask you to take a breathalyzer test.

If your BAC is over 0.08% or if you refuse to take a breathalyzer test altogether, your license will be taken away and you will be arrested on the spot.

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Upon arrest the Department of Motor Vehicles takes immediate action and your license will be suspended. Afterward, you’ll be assigned a court date. There’s no telling what the outcome will be, as it all depends on your situation and police report. However, common penalties following a sobriety checkpoint failure are:

  • Completion of DUI school
  • Delay in driver’s license
  • Fine
  • Jail time

Whatever charge or conviction you receive from the court will be placed on your criminal record. There are two reasons for this:

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  1. To inform employers who do a criminal background check.
  2. To notify the court if new convictions appear in the future.

Penalties can be expected to worsen if you’re caught driving under the influence again. However, you can take a DUI as a learning lesson. It might even be life changing, especially if you seek medical treatment for possible addiction.

Misdemeanor or Felony?

Whether you receive a misdemeanor or a felony for your DUI entirely depends on your circumstances. Typically, if you were simply pulled over, caught with a BAC of over 0.08%, and it was your first offense, you’ll be charged with a misdemeanor. However, if someone else was either hurt or killed in an accident due to your DUI, then you’ll face a felony charge. [4]

1st DUI

Upon receiving your first DUI,  Massachusetts courts and judges will charge you under a misdemeanor. [5] Following penalties are typically ordered:

  • A fine between $500 and $5,000.
  • Alcohol education program.
  • Jail time of up to 2 and a half years.
  • License suspension of up to 180 days.
  • A license reinstatement fee from $100 to $1,200.

2nd DUI

Upon receiving your second DUI, the following penalties are typically ordered by Massachusetts courts and judges under a misdemeanor charge:

  • A fine between $600 and $10,000.
  • Alcohol education program.
  • Mandatory use of an ignition interlock device, an IID.
  • Jail time between 60 days and 2 and a half years.
  • License suspension of up to 2 years.
  • A license reinstatement fee from $100 to $1,200.

3rd DUI

Upon receiving your third DUI, the following penalties are typically ordered by Massachusetts courts and judges under a felony charge:

  • A fine between $1,000 and $15,000.
  • Alcohol education program.
  • Mandatory use of an ignition interlock device, an IID.
  • Jail time between 180 days and 2 and a half years.
  • Potential prison time for up to 5 years.
  • License suspension for up to 8 years.
  • A license reinstatement fee from $100 to $1,200.
  • Potential vehicle registration revocation.

4th DUI

Upon receiving your fourth DUI, the following penalties are typically ordered by Massachusetts courts and judges under a felony charge:

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  • A fine between $1,500 and $25,000.
  • Alcohol education program.
  • Mandatory use of an ignition interlock device, an IID.
  • Jail time between 2 years and 2 and a half years.
  • Potential prison time for up to 5 years.
  • License suspension for up to 10 years.
  • A license reinstatement fee from $100 to $1,200.
  • Potential motor vehicle forfeiture.
  • Potential vehicle registration revocation.

5th DUI

Upon receiving your fifth DUI, the following penalties are typically ordered by Massachusetts courts and judges under a felony charge:

  • A fine between $2,000 and $50,000.
  • Alcohol education program.
  • Mandatory use of an ignition interlock device, an IID.
  • Jail time for a minimum of 2 and a half years.
  • Potential prison for up to 5 years.
  • License suspension for up to your lifetime.
  • Potential motor vehicle forfeiture.
  • Potential vehicle registration revocation.

Jail Time

As can be seen with the above charges, any DUI offense holds the risk of jail time. Though misdemeanors will most likely result in little to no jail time, it’s the felonies that get most people worried. You’re more likely to receive jail time for a DUI if:

  • Someone else was hurt due to your DUI.
  • You refuse a sobriety checkpoint testing.
  • You enter a plea bargain.

The amount of jail time you face depends on your situation and the judge’s perspective of that situation. For example, if your DUI leads to another person’s death, you risk between 5 to 20 years in prison. That timeframe gap is to give the judge leeway in deciding how s/he feels your circumstance fits the sentence. Furthermore, jail sentences can rise for the following reasons:

  • You had a child under the age of 14 in the car.
  • You were driving well over the speed limit.
  • You’re under the age of 21.
  • You had a BAC of over 0.15%.
  • It’s even worse if you had a BAC over 0.20%.

Again, jail times highly vary on each individual’s circumstances. In order to get a clear sense of how much jail time you risk, it’s vital you speak to a lawyer. S/He will have a much better understanding of your case and the consequences which may follow.

Classes and DUI School

In Massachusetts, DUI school is often referred to as Alcohol Education Programs. The purpose of this school is to give you knowledge and insight into the dangers of addiction and driving while under the influence. The hope is this knowledge will prevent you from making a DUI offense again in the future.

Most education programs are only for 1st and 2nd-time offenders. [6] Though the judge may rule otherwise for further offenders, the goal of education is to prevent you from committing these crimes again in the future. These classes are often divided into the following:

  • Community-based self-help meetings.
  • Individual discharge sessions.
  • Individual intake sessions.
  • Psycho-educational group sessions.
  • Victim impact awareness offered by MADD.

The price of Alcohol Education Programs entirely depends on your location. Some areas like Boston may cost more than others. However, the average price for these programs for a first-time offender is around $567. For a second-time offender, it’s nearly $1,000.

Statute of Limitations

From the date of your DUI arrest, the district attorney has 3 years to file charges for a misdemeanor. This timeframe can be more for a felony, depending on the situation. These statute of limitations are set for the sake of keeping eyewitness memory fresh and evidence from deteriorating.

It’s important to note that even if the district attorney doesn’t press charges within 3 years, your DUI will stay on record for the next 10 years of your life. Therefore, it might be in your interest to find a way to expunge your DUI.

Expungement

People often seek expungement for the sake of employee background checks. As is expected, it’s in a person’s best interest not to have a DUI claim against them when trying to find work. Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to get an expungement of a DUI in the state of Massachusetts. [7] There are only two reasons Massachusetts will allow you to expunge your DUI charges:

  1. Someone stole your identity and then received a DUI charge, making you entirely innocent.
  2. You are a juvenile and a lack of evidence has been displayed in court.

Most people in Massachusetts don’t seek to get their record expunged. Rather, they seek to seal it. This means the public will not have access to it and, therefore, it won’t appear on your employee background check. Usually, the only people with access to this information is government agencies and courts. This is so that if you commit another crime, your DUI is on record.

Receiving a seal of your record varies from person to person. It’s in your best interest to talk to a lawyer on the matter and find out the best course of action for you.

DUI Lawyer Costs

Lawyers are expensive.

When it comes to a Massachusetts DUI, it may be in your best interest to accept the charges rather than seek out a lawyer. This is primarily due to the fact that you’re going to have to pay a variety of expenses as is, including:

  • Courts and fines which can add up to $2,000.
  • DUI school which can cost anywhere from $567 to $1,000.
  • Your insurance rate will go up to a potential of $2,500 a year.
  • You may be required to use an ignition interlock device, which can cost $500 or more.

An average, experienced DUI lawyer used over the course of six months will cost you around $2,500 to $3,500. And a very experienced lawyer who will give you the best outcome can cost you upwards of $6,000. As you can see, adding a lawyer to these expenses might not be in your interest. That’s why you might want to look for alternative sentencing via drug court and mandatory rehab.

Is Rehab an Option?

Alcohol or drug rehab is always an option. Even if you must face the penalties for your DUI, you can always seek help. Maybe your DUI is a wake-up call to make a big change in your life. Quitting alcohol or drugs and creating a sober life can be rich and fulfilling.

In Massachusetts, you might have access to a drug court. [8]

What is a drug court? These are specialized courts which seek alternatives to DUIs rather than traditional punishment. These alternatives are often entering a rehabilitation facility and getting the help you need. In order to be eligible, you must meet certain criteria, including an addiction diagnosis, and be willing to go to treatment. Find more information on the official manual published by Massachusetts State Drug Court. [9]

If you identify as having a drug problem, and want help…the state supports you! As stated on the state’s drug court website, “meta-analyses” or studies of drug courts over time have concluded that Drug Courts significantly reduce crime as much as 45% more than other sentencing options. [10]

The purpose of a drug court is to decrease your likelihood of committing a criminal offense again and increasing your chance of success in sobriety. Depending on your situation, you may have the credentials for a drug court. You’ll want to speak to a social worker to find out.

Your Questions

If you have any further questions pertaining to DUI laws in Massachusetts, we invite you to ask them below. If you have any further information regarding Massachusetts DUI laws, we’d also love to hear from you. So, please leave your comments and questions below!

We try to reply to each comment in a prompt and personal manner.

Reference Sources: [1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Sobering Facts: Drunk Driving in Massachusetts
[2] NHTSA: Risky Driving, Drunk Driving
[3] Mass.gov: Massachusetts law about drunk driving
[4] Mass.gov: Consequences & processes after your arraignment or first court appearance
[5] DMV.org: DUI & DWI in Massachusetts
[6] NFI Massachusetts: Driver Alcohol Education
[7] Mass DUI Guy: Is a DUI Expungement Possible in Massachusetts:
[8] Mass.gov: Specialty Courts
[9] State of Massachusetts: Adult Drug Court Manual
[10] Mass.gov: Drug Courts Facts and Statistics
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.

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