I’m Attorney Mike Contant. Here’s a question I get asked a lot: “How long does a drunk driving offense or an OUI in Massachusetts stay on your record?” Now, that’s not really the right question. Because any criminal offense stays on your record forever unless you’re able to get it expunged.
The Old Rule
A lot of people know that it used to be possible that after 10 years, if you had stayed out of trouble for 10 years, any OUI offense would be set back to a first offense. This means that if you picked up a first offense when you were 20 and you stayed out of trouble, by the time you turn 30, if you did it again, it went back and still stayed a first offense and did not become a second offense.
However, in 2005, that changed. There was a law passed called Melanie’s Law. It was named after a 13-year-old girl, Melanie Powell, who was struck and killed by a drunk driver who had multiple drunk driving offenses on his record.
This law did several things. It made it easier to prosecute multiple offender drunk drivers. But it also created a lifetime look-back period for drunk driving offenses. As a result, you would never be reset back to a first offense. Let me tell you a little story to illustrate this point.
A Client Story
We had this client. He was 77 years old. He comes in with an OUI third offense. We got a little history from him. And he said that back in his 20s, he was a bit of a hellraiser and picked up two offenses for drunk driving. But then he grew up. He got married, had a family, and had a great job. And he hasn’t had any other criminal activity since.
Now, he’s 77 years old. And just a few months earlier, he had been at his sister’s house for a Christmas party. He might have had one glass of wine too many, and he got pulled over on his way home. I think he blew a stop sign. He didn’t cause any damage. He didn’t hurt anybody. But he blew a stop sign and he gets pulled over.
The Impact Of Melanie’s Law
The officer asks him to do a field sobriety test and a breathalyzer test and he’s over the legal limit. So he gets arrested. And, now, even though it’s been more than 50 years since his last drunk driving offense, he gets charged with an OUI third offense, which, in Massachusetts, is a felony.
But, more importantly, it also carries a mandatory minimum jail time. This means that you must serve at least 150 days in jail for an OUI third offense. The judge has no ability to lower the sentence. If you’re convicted of that offense, that’s how much time you have to serve.
Now, that’s why it’s so important to understand that this is a lifetime look-back period. Even though this guy had stayed out of trouble and had been a good guy for most of his life, Melanie’s Law made it so that this ended up being a third offense and he was facing a minimum of 150 days of actual jail time.
If You Have Questions
If you have any questions about drunk driving offenses, Melanie’s Law, or anything related, please feel free to give us a call or shoot me an email. I’d be happy to speak with you about it.