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Boston Criminal Defense Law Blog

OUI convictions may remain on criminal records

OUI convictions may lead to a jail sentence and fines in Massachusetts. Other OUI conviction consequences include a criminal record that can follow the offender's business and academic life and cost money.

A first-time OUI conviction may carry a term of imprisonment of up to 2½ years, a fine of $500 to $5,000 and license suspension for up to one year. A conviction without the option of entering any type of probationary or pre-trial diversion program may remain on a person's criminal and driving records.

Is drunk biking illegal?

Driving a vehicle while impaired is dangerous and a criminal offense in Massachusetts which can have serious legal consequences. But drunk or drug-impaired biking, while a terribly reckless thing to do, is not illegal in this state and does not have OUI conviction consequences.

State law grants bicycles with all the rights and responsibilities of vehicles. However, Massachusetts OUI law makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle while being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A motor vehicle, under Massachusetts law, is not a bike but a vehicle that is constructed and designed for propulsion by non-muscular power. Its legal definition specifically excludes motorized bicycles.

OUI conviction has insurance consequences

Keeping up with insurance premiums can be a financial challenge with motorists with relatively good driving records. However, drivers may face expensive car insurance as one of their OUI conviction consequences in Massachusetts.

An OUI conviction follows from a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent. Commercial drivers have a stricter limit of 0.04 percent. Motorists under 21 are held to an even lower standard of 0.02 percent or higher.

Massachusetts breathalyzer tests currently inadmissible

In January 2019, a District Court judge ruled that breathalyzer tests for people charged with OUI in the state of Massachusetts are, for the time being, inadmissible in court.

Litigation has continued for years over this issue. A lack of reliable standards is at the core of the ongoing legal dust-up.

Marijuana-impaired driving tests may be flawed

Massachusetts officials have been reviewing options on enforcing impaired driving laws after marijuana was legalized in the state. A report from a Michigan state commission studying the effects of marijuana on drivers may be instructive for Massachusetts' enforcement and an OUI defense once these plans are finalized.

Michigan's impaired driving safety commission recommended that there should be no legal test limit for the active ingredient in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in a motorist's blood. It recommended that police continue to use roadside sobriety tests to determine whether a motorist is driving while impaired.

What proof is needed in an OUI prosecution?

Like other criminal prosecutions, the Commonwealth bears the burden of proof and defendants do not have to prove their innocence. Even before an OUI defense is presented, the Commonwealth must prove its prosecution case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Boston prosecution does not have to prove that the driver was drunk. The Commonwealth must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant drove a vehicle on a public way or a road where the public has the right of access while they were under the influence of an intoxicating liquor. Or, it must prove that they drove the vehicle while their blood level was at least .08 percent regardless of any evidence of impairment.

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?

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