By Revelli & Luzzo

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has passed a number of laws in the past decade that are very harsh on those who are arrested for operating under the influence (OUI).  If you are stopped and charged with OUI, you will need to have a basic understanding of the penalties you could face under Massachusetts OUI laws.

Understanding the terms
Melanie’s Law was passed in October of 2005 in Massachusetts for the sole purpose of allowing stronger penalties in cases of OUI.  Under the new rules, the following penalties are associated with OUI cases:

First offense

Under Massachusetts law, a conviction on a first offense OUI could result in a term of incarceration for up to 2.5 years in the House of Correction, a fine from $500.00-$5,000.00 and a 1 year loss of license.

There is an alternative program available for first time OUI offenders however which is commonly referred to as a “24D Disposition.” Under this alternative, an offender would admit to sufficient facts for a finding of guilty and would be placed on probation for a period of one year. They would need to attend and complete the Driver Alcohol Education class which is generally one night per week for sixteen weeks. They would pay a monthly probation fee of $65.00 per month and all of the statutory fines and fees that go along with a first offense OUI. In addition, the offender would incur a license suspension of 45-90 days but could be eligible for a hardship license after three business days.

Upon successful completion of the 24D Disposition, the offender’s matter would be dismissed. However, it would always count as a first offense for purposes of a future OUI.

Second offense
Second offenses are treated much more seriously under Massachusetts law since 2005 and have mandatory minimum jail time.

For those who have not been convicted of a previous OUI within the prior 10 years, there is an alternative option called the “Cahill Disposition.” Under these rules, if you are convicted, you would lose your license for 45 days, attend and complete the Driver Alcohol Education program, be placed on probation for two years and be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. It is important to note that while the court may order a shorter license suspension, the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) may still require a license suspension for two years. A second offender would also incur a multitude of fines and fees along with a monthly probation fee.

For those who have faced a conviction within 10 years, the penalties are much harsher. Under Massachusetts law, the court may impose a jail sentence of not less than 60 days up to 2 1/2 years in the house of Correction. Of this, there is a 30 day mandatory minimum sentence. As an alternative, this may be served in 14 days at an in-patient alcohol program.  There are also fines, fees and a second offense would trigger a 2 year loss of license with the installation of an ignition interlock device upon reinstatement.

Third or more convictions
A third offense conviction is a felony and subject to 180 days up to 2.5 years in the House of Correction or 2.5 years up to 5 years in state prison. There is a mandatory 150 days that must be served. In addition to various fines and fees, there is an 8 year loss of license upon a third conviction. Keep in mind, if a breath test has been refused with two prior convictions, you will automatically lose your license for life based upon the refusal alone.

Fourth offenses will also result in jail time of not less than 2 years up to 2 1/2 years or state prison not less than 2.5 years up to 5 years. There is a mandatory minimum sentence of one year. In addition to fines and fees, your driving rights will be suspended for 10 years for a fourth conviction.

Additional penalties may be imposed for those who have a child in their vehicle when they are stopped.  In addition to OUI charges, you will also be faced with child endangerment charges which carry a prison sentence of upwards of 2 1/2 years.  There are also special rules for those who are under the age of 21 and those who are operating commercial vehicles.

What is a Continuance Without a Finding (CWOF)?
In effect, you will be agreeing to certain conditions imposed by the court and waiving your right of a trial. The overall result of a CWOF is that you are admitting to sufficient facts for a finding of guilty, without actually being found guilty. Under these rules, you may have to meet certain conditions including:

  • Alcohol safety course
  • Curfew restrictions
  • Random alcohol tests
  • Reporting for probation meetings
  • Community service

In effect, you are completing a probationary period and must complete your terms successfully and not face any new charges during that period of time. This could be as little as one year and may be longer. However, you will not face a guilty charge and when completed successfully, you could earn a dismissal of the charges on your record. Any violation of a CWOF could result in a guilty finding and would likely result in jail time.

OUI charges in Massachusetts are taken very seriously and if you are stopped, it is important to speak with an attorney who focuses on OUI charges.