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Boston Criminal Defense Law Blog

Veterans in Massachusetts may have drunk driving charges dropped

A Massachusetts state trooper attended a police social event in May 2018. The Irish American Police Officers Association sponsored its annual award dinner. A Massachusetts State Trooper received the Medal of Valor award for his bravery for his involvement in an armed shootout two years earlier.

He left the dinner, and while driving to a rotary club, State Police received multiple calls reporting an erratic driver in a white SUV. The driver was the Medal of Valor honoree. Another state trooper apprehended him at the rotary location and cited his fellow trooper for possible drunk driving, lane violations and negligent driving.  

What should a motorist do when stopped for an OUI?

Conviction for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol can have serious consequences for Bostonians. An OUI defense often depends on what happened at the police stop.

If stopped by police, motorists should give their license and registration to the officer. A driver does not have to submit to a field sobriety test, breathalyzer or blood test. This may make it more difficult for the prosecution to prove an OUI case at trial. But, a refusal is likely to lead to an OUI arrest.

What if your BAC is lower than 0.08 percent?

The national legal limit for alcohol in your system is 0.08 percent. This percentage is the point where intoxication is clear and dangerous for everyone, regardless of factors such as size and age. Operating a vehicle under this level of impairment will result in criminal charges and can easily lead to an OUI conviction and the associated penalties. It takes a strong defense to avoid this outcome.

However, what if your BAC is below 0.08 percent? Can the police still arrest and charge you for drunk driving?

What happens in a OUI arrest?

Getting arrested for drunk driving in Massachusetts can begin a series of events that can cause devastating legal and financial problems. OUI conviction consequences may be long-lasting. A motorist arrested for OUI will be asked to undergo a breathalyzer test. There is no effective way to mask a person's breath to defeat this test. Penalties for test refusal can include a license suspension of 180 days to a lifetime depending on the OUI conviction record. The vehicle may also be impounded.

Exceeding the blood alcohol content limit of 0.08 constitutes a test failure which will result in the immediate license suspension for 30 days. Minors exceeding 0.02 face license suspension. OUI convictions remain on a driver's record for their life. A first-time conviction carries prison time, one-year license suspension and a fine of $500 to $5,000.

States struggle to enforce impaired marijuana driving laws

Massachusetts and other states which legalized recreational use are beginning to implement new laws addressing driving while impaired. However, the absence of valid testing and other problems may be instrumental in mounting an OUI defense against these charges.

The cases are more complicated than prosecuting a typical drunk driving case which can rely on accepted testing such as a breathalyzer. Cases have been successfully defended where there were inaccurate levels, or nanograms. Police have also used inappropriate methods to compel a confession from drivers.

What the future looks like with an OUI on your record

In the state of Massachusetts, a drunk driving charge is known as operating under the influence, or OUI, for which the penalties are severe.

However, a penalty is one thing. Your future is quite another. What effect will an OUI conviction have on the plans you are making for your life?

Are there ways to fight an OUI arrest?

Massachusetts drinking laws can penalize college students, even if they are over 21. Although college students charged with OUI and underage drinking may face serious consequences, an OUI arrest may have even harsher penalties. These penalties can have serious legal, educational or professional costs, regardless of whether the arrest was made on or off campus. But, there are ways to fight an OUI charge.

One common defense is that the police were not legally justified to stop the driver or did not follow proper legal procedures when making the arrest. If successful, this defense can make evidence inadmissible in court and lead to the dismissal of the prosecution.

Impaired driving laws being questioned

Legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts has brought additional legal questions. A state commission review of the state's marijuana legalization law could result in actions that can affect college students charged with OUI and underage drinking.

The OUI Commission was formed in accordance with the legalization law. It was assigned to study issues concerning driving while under the influence of drugs. These include the types of available drug testing, driver civil liberties, admissibility of evidence in court, police burdens and testing costs.

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