Is OUI a Misdemeanor or Felony in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts is fairly strict when it comes to drunk driving, and if you are facing a charge of OUI, you are definitely dealing with something that goes beyond a traffic violation. However, the answer to whether OUI is a felony or not isn’t completely straightforward. How the crime is charged varies and depends on the factors of the case.
What Is an OUI?
OUI stands for operating under the influence. It means driving a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Other names for this charge can include driving under the influence, or DUI, and driving while intoxicated, or DWI.
You might also face boating OUI charges if you are found to be operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
When Is OUI Considered a Misdemeanor in Massachusetts?
In general, OUI charges are considered misdemeanors in Massachusetts if they are the first or second offense for an individual. The exception is when a first or second offense OUI also includes the serious injury or death of another person; this may cause the charge to be upgraded to felony OUI.
However, just because these offenses are considered misdemeanors doesn’t mean they are not serious charges that should be handled with care. Even misdemeanor OUIs can have long-standing consequences, so it is important to work to defend yourself against them.
When Is OUI Considered a Felony in Massachusetts?
Outside of cases involving the serious death or injury of another person, OUI cases are only considered felonies upon subsequent offenses. A third offense or further OUI offense may be charged as a felony crime.
One of the differences between a felony OUI charge and a misdemeanor OUI charge is that the former comes with mandatory jail time if you are convicted. This means the judge doesn’t have the same level of flexibility as they might have with the lower-level offenses in offering alternative sentencing depending on the facts of the case.
Possible Penalties for OUI Convictions
The penalties you might face for an OUI conviction in Massachusetts vary according to the level of the charge, the facts of the case, and your own defense strategy. However, every type of OUI charge comes with the potential for serious fees and jail or prison time.
For example, if you are convicted of a first offense OUI, you may face a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 2.5 years in prison. You could also have your license suspended, but may qualify for a hardship license.
Upon a second offense conviction, the fine can be as high as $10,000 and you could face prison time up to 2.5 years. License suspension may be up to two years with a waiting period of one year before you can apply for a hardship license. You will be required to use an ignition interlock device in any vehicle you drive for the period of any hardship license and for two years after your license is reinstated. Failure to use the ignition interlock device or any violation of its conditions has its own penalties, which can include additional charges.
Depending on the nature of the case, there are alternative sentencing options for both first and second offenses. These opportunities might reduce the consequences or allow you to opt for an alternative, which could include completing an alcohol education program.
A third offense, which is a felony, comes with more severe potential penalties if you are convicted. That can include fines up to $15,000 and prison time up to five years.
There is a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 150 days which must be served. You could also lose your license for eight years with a two-year waiting period before you can apply for a hardship license. If you are convicted a fourth time, the fine could be up to $25,000 and you might spend up to another five years in prison. All of the consequences continue to ramp up for further subsequent offenses.
Is a Defense Against Felony OUI Possible?
It is absolutely possible to defend against OUI charges, including felony OUI charges. A common defense is to address the tests performed to determine whether someone was operating a vehicle under the influence.
For example, your attorney can help you demonstrate that a field sobriety test was improperly performed or was impacted by factors like physical fitness, age, and environmental factors such as poor weather. If the officer performing the test was not properly trained, they may not have been able to accurately interpret the results of the test.
The chemical test used to ascertain blood alcohol levels can also be attacked. These tests are not 100% reliable, and if they are not administered correctly or there are any other issues with the process, the result might be thrown out.
Your attorney can also find out whether the original stop that led to the OUI charge was legal. If officers did not perform a legal stop, you may be able to defend against the OUI charge based on a technicality.
In some cases, you may be able to demonstrate that you did not, in fact, operate a vehicle under the influence. For instance, there are certain medications and conditions that can mimic a high blood alcohol content and skew the results of these tests. If you can prove this was the case, the charges may be dropped.
Reach Out for Experienced Help With Your OUI Defense
Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend yourself against OUI charges is important. Your lawyer can help you understand all of your options and create a viable strategy for defense. They can also help you navigate the criminal defense system and understand options for alternative sentencing.
If you’re facing OUI charges in the state, contact Contant Law at 617-221-8221 for help with your defense.