How Is an OUI Charge Defined in Massachusetts?
While many other states call it DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while impaired), in Massachusetts drunk driving is called OUI (operating under the influence). In Massachusetts, if your blood alcohol content is higher than .08%, you can be convicted of OUI and even a first offense can lead to severe penalties.
Even if you refuse to take a breath test, you can still be charged for OUI based on a police officer’s testimony about your driving, appearance, behavior, performance on tests to determine sobriety and other factors.
Operating under the influence involves the operation of a motor vehicle on a public thoroughfare or way, typically a highway, secondary road or one that the public has right of access, such as parking lots and shopping centers, while you are under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.
What Does OUI Mean?
A key element of the definition of OUI is “operating”. This doesn’t just include driving a car in the usual sense. If you are sitting in your car at the roadside and you have the key in the ignition with the accessories on (listening to the radio or something like that), that is technically considered operation in Massachusetts.
If the car is turned off and you’re able to manipulate the gear shift into neutral that can be considered operation even though the car is not running. It is an odd thing, but basically, intentionally manipulating anything mechanical or electrical that could set the vehicle in motion is considered operation.
The typical person, who might realize that they are too drunk to be driving, may pull over to the side of the road and go to sleep with the radio or heater on. They could still be convicted of drunk driving, of OUI, should the police come upon them by the roadside and realize they are drunk just sitting there, because that is still considered operation.
Another element of OUI that should be further explained is what it means to be “under the influence.” This does not necessarily mean falling down drunk. It can mean that your alertness and your reflexes are simply impaired to the point where you cannot drive safely. That is another misconception that many people have. It also does not require a person to necessarily be driving unsafely.
A person can be driving perfectly fine, get pulled over for something else, perhaps speeding or a broken taillight, and they could be found guilty of an OUI conviction because they either blew above a .08 or they were otherwise impaired to the point where they should not have been driving, even though they were driving fine.
OUI for Under Age Drivers
Massachusetts has strict laws in place to discourage underage drinking and driving. Any detectable amount of alcohol in the system of a driver under 21 can result in severe consequences. For a first offense, drivers may face a license suspension of 180 days, mandatory completion of an alcohol education program, and fines.
Subsequent offenses can lead to longer license suspensions, increased fines, and potentially more severe penalties. Massachusetts aims to prevent accidents and protect young drivers from the dangers of impaired driving, making it clear that OUI offenses for drivers under 21 are treated with utmost seriousness within the legal framework.
What Does OUI Mean and What To Do If You’re Facing Charges?
If you find yourself facing an operating under the influence (OUI) charge in Massachusetts, it is essential to take the situation seriously and take appropriate steps. Firstly, it is recommended to seek legal representation from an experienced OUI defense attorney.
A skilled lawyer can guide you through the legal process, explain your rights, and build a strong defense strategy tailored to your specific case. It is crucial to fully cooperate with your attorney, providing them with all the necessary information and details related to the incident. They can help assess the evidence against you, challenge any procedural errors, and explore potential defenses.
Additionally, it is vital to comply with any administrative requirements imposed by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), such as license suspension hearings or alcohol education programs.
It is crucial to refrain from discussing the case or sharing details about the incident on social media, as this information can potentially be used against you. Remember to prioritize your well-being and follow any legal advice provided by your attorney throughout the process.