Articles Posted in OUI/Drunk Driving

Driving under the influence (DUI) in Massachusetts carries severe penalties for those convicted. One of the key aspects of DUI enforcement is the administration of breathalyzer tests, which measure a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). While many are familiar with the consequences of failing a breathalyzer, fewer people understand the ramifications of refusing one.

Massachusetts operates under an “implied consent” law. When you obtain a driver’s license in the state, you automatically consent to submit to chemical tests (breath, blood, or urine) if a police officer suspects you of driving under the influence. This law aims to deter drunk driving and ensure public safety. Despite the law, studies show that refusal rates have been increasing, partly due to heightened awareness of the consequences of high BAC readings. In fact, of the more than 7,500 DUI arrests in 2019, approximately 15% involved breathalyzer refusals.

Penalties for Refusing a Breathalyzer

What is an arraignment?  An arraignment is usually how a criminal case commences against you.  There are exceptions to this general rule, which I shall talk about later.  At an arraignment, typically a plea of NOT GUILTY is entered against you and a Pre-Trial Conference date set.  Arraignments can be as uneventful as that or incredibly impactful and quite eventful.

The more eventful and impactful arraignments involve setting bail and even potentially holding you in jail during some of the pendency of the case.  It could also involve you being ordered away from a person or place or ordered not to operate a motor vehicle or to wear a GPS ankle bracelet.

An important aspect of being arraigned is that, in some sense of the word, you now will have an entry on your Board of Probation record or CORI.  In other words, you will now have a criminal record.  In substance and in the law, you really do not have a criminal record, per se, as you have not been adjudicated as guilty, but if one were to search your record, there would be an entry.  It is critical to try to avoid this if it is at all possible.  Having a case resolved/dismissed prior to arraignment is crucial and always worth attempting using a variety of avenues to accomplish as such.

If you were convicted of drunk driving in Massachusetts, you may qualify for a second chance. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled in April that due to problems with certain breath test machines — and the state’s handling of the issue — around 27,000 people can request to withdraw their guilty plea or seek a new trial.

The ruling follows an investigation revealing that breathalyzers used in a Massachusetts forensic testing lab may have malfunctioned over a period of nearly eight years, leading to potentially faulty results. Citing “egregious government misconduct,” the SJC ruled that alcohol breath tests performed on the devices between June 1, 2011 and April 18, 2019 must be excluded from criminal prosecutions.

Misconduct at State Testing Lab

The Office of Alcohol Testing (OAT) has now been involved in a scandal for several years for its inadequate testing and withholding of breathalyzer certifications relating to the Alcotest 9510 device. The Alcotest 9510 has been under scrutiny since 2017 when Draeger Safety Diagnostics, the manufacturer of the breathalyzers, called several thousand devices into question. The company admitted in court testimony that the device was improperly programmed, leading to incorrect values and affecting the accuracy of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for OUI-related breath testing.

In Massachusetts, the maximum BAC if 0.08% for drivers over the age of 21 and 0.02% for drivers under the age of 21. In many cases, the driver’s punishment of a fine or even jail time is dependent on the number that appears on this little black box. As more than 1 million Americans are arrested for OUI each year, faulty breath testing is a huge issue in the state of Massachusetts, and everyone has an interest in guaranteeing that these tests are as accurate as possible.

The Alcotest 9510 uses two sensors to measure alcohol content in a driver’s breath: an infrared beam and an electrochemical fuel cell. The results of the two measurements should be almost identical, but if the results differ too much, the test should be rejected due to the potential for inaccurate readings. The issue with this device is that is does not shut down when values are too far apart, and inaccurate readings are instead treated as an indication of drugs or alcohol in the driver’s system. After an inspection of 400 machines in 2017, not a single machine was programmed correctly. Up to 20% were likely to produce false positive values for BAC, information which OAT was intentionally withholding. This means that the machine may display an illegal BAC reading when the driver is not actually over the legal limit.

In February 2017, the court ordered tests dating back to June 2011 be assumed inaccurate and excluded from evidence pending a demonstration on a case-by-case basis that the device was reliable. In January 2019, the court ordered that OAT comply with new standards and be on track for accreditation before this ban would be lifted. This presumptive exclusion was lifted on April 18, 2019, despite the fact that Draeger had not updated 90% of its machines. Breath tests can now be used as evidence for OUI charges in the Commonwealth, but the prosecution will have to demonstrate that the device used complied with OAT’s new standards.

New issues have surfaced recently. Kristen Sullivan the director of the State Police Crime Laboratory released a statement on June 10 revealing that over 400 breath-test or over-limit test results sent to the RMV had required sections left blank. On both types of reports, the sections included a certification that the officer preparing the report was the one that refusal was made to or who administered the test, as well as acknowledgement that the report was prepared under penalty of perjury. OAT found that 435 of these reports were incomplete or improper since the device went into service in 2011. Joseph D. Bernard, the lead attorney in the original case, has called for Gov. Charlie Baker to remove all devices from service until these inconsistencies can be resolved. Continue reading

In MA, a second offense for operating under the influence (OUI), also known as drunk driving, has serious consequences that can impact you and your family. As explained below, these penalties include substantial fines, loss of license, and even time behind bars.

If you have been charged with a second offense OUI, you may be feeling scared and alone. But you are not alone. OUI is the most common charge in Massachusetts courts, and we are here to help. The good news? As long as no one was injured as a result of the OUI, a second offense will be charged as a misdemeanor. If, however, your offense involved an injury accident, you may be facing felony charges. The information below may help you make the best decision for you and your family.

What Counts as a First OUI?

Getting charged with OUI is bad enough…don’t make it worse by making any of the serious mistakes below. From excessively high blood alcohol content (BAC) to driving drunk with children in the car, there are many aggravating factors that can turn your OUI from a bad mistake to extended time behind bars. You could even end up facing felony charges.

Underage OUI

Massachusetts, and most other states, have zero tolerance laws for underage OUI offenders. While 0.08 percent BAC is the legal limit for individuals 21 and over, anyone under 21 will fail a breath or blood test with a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher. Considering that even one drink can elevate a person’s BAC to 0.02 percent, those under 21 should avoid driving after any amount of alcohol. Further, if an underage person refuses to submit to a breath test, he/she will face a three-year driver’s license suspension.

Second and Subsequent OUIs

As far as the courts see it, you should have learned your lesson the first time. If you’ve already been convicted of OUI and you are charged with a second or subsequent offense, you’ll be facing higher fines, a longer license suspension, the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID), and probably even jail time, at a minimum. If this is your third or greater offense, you may be looking at a felony conviction, and you’ll almost certainly spend time behind bars. A Boston OUI defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with a second or subsequent OUI.

Child Endangerment

Driving while intoxicated endangers everyone with whom you share the road, especially those in your vehicle. And if children are present, you will face some of the stiffest penalties possible. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol is a factor in nearly one in five traffic deaths involving a child age 14 or younger. In addition to hefty fines, license suspension or revocation, and jail time, your child custody rights may be in jeopardy if you are convicted of OUI with a child in the vehicle.

OUI Manslaughter

If you seriously injure or kill another person while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the potential penalties are severe. In such a situation, it is imperative to get immediate legal help. In 2005, Massachusetts passed Melanie’s Law to increase penalties and license suspension periods for individuals convicted of drunk driving. The law states that anyone who commits manslaughter while driving drunk or under the influence of drugs will be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. The maximum sentence is 20 years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine.

According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, in Massachusetts, 8,541 people were arrested for driving under the influence in 2012. That’s 700 arrests per month! Do yourself, and everyone with whom you share the road, a favor—don’t drink and drive. But if you made a mistake, it’s in your best interest to consult with a MA OUI defense attorney immediately. Continue reading

It is illegal in all 50 states to purchase, and even to possess, alcohol if you are under the age of 21.  And although it is illegal for anyone to drive under the influence of alcohol, individuals under age 21 are prohibited from driving with even the slightest trace of alcohol in their system. For example, while in most states the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is anything below 0.08 percent for “of age” drivers, a BAC of 0.02 percent or less can result in an OUI if you’re under 21. This law is referred to as Zero Tolerance.

In MA, due to Zero Tolerance Laws, it is a crime for drivers under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher. In layman’s terms, you don’t need to feel drunk—or even buzzed—to get an OUI if you’re under 21 in MA. Although these laws are intended to prevent the dangers of underage drinking, they can sometimes do more harm than good. Imagine, for example, that 20-year-old Brandi is home from college to celebrate her sister’s engagement. To toast her sister’s future, Brandi has a glass of champagne before heading to a local restaurant for a celebratory dinner. On the way there, she gets pulled over because her headlight is out. The officer asks Brandi if she’s been drinking and she innocently replies that she had one glass of champagne. The officer gives her a breath test and it measures her BAC at 0.02 percent. She is arrested and charged with OUI.

Isn’t Zero Tolerance a Little Excessive?

Zero Tolerance laws weren’t created to punish people like Brandi. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), when it comes to fatal car crashes involving 15 to 20-year-old drivers, nearly one-third are alcohol-related. Zero tolerance laws aim to combat this serious problem. Young drivers are about twice as likely to be involved in an alcohol-related crash. A Boston OUI defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with an OUI or underage drinking.

And MA is actually a bit more lenient on underage drinking and driving than some other states. The National Highway Systems Designation Act of 1995 made it a matter of law for every state in the nation to use a BAC of 0.02 percent or lower when determining if an underage driver can be charged with OUI. In addition, a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher will result in a “per se offense,” which means that intoxication doesn’t have to be proven to charge the individual with OUI.

Zero Tolerance Laws Seem to be Helping

The NHTSA conducted a study of 24 states—12 with Zero Tolerance laws and 12 without—to see if there were any noticeable differences in crashes involving young people and alcohol. The results revealed that Zero Tolerance states had 20 percent less fatal nighttime crashes involving single cars. Considering that nighttime crashes are far more likely to involve alcohol, these results are significant. A MA OUI defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with underage OUI.

The bottom line—if you are under the age of 21, never get behind the wheel if you’ve had anything to drink. You don’t have to be drunk to get an OUI if you are underage. An OUI conviction can have longterm consequences, affecting your ability to get a job and increasing your insurance premiums, to name a few. Continue reading

In Massachusetts, if you are stopped by police on suspicion of operating under the influence (OUI), there’s a good chance that you will be asked to submit to a breath test. This test measures the concentration of alcohol in your blood, also known as your BAC. You can refuse to take the test, but there are consequences for doing so. Namely, you will face an automatic, six-month license suspension. That being said, a reading above 0.08 percent will likely carry an even stiffer penalty.

Most folks have heard of a breathalyzer test, and know that a BAC below 0.08 percent is the legal limit in MA. But notably fewer understand the different methods used to measure BAC, their accuracy, and how to challenge results in court. The FAQs below provide answers to all of those questions, and more. A Boston OUI defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you have been charged with OUI.

How is BAC Measured?

Although the breathalyzer (breath test) is the most commonly used method for measuring BAC, it is far from the only one. In fact, a total of five bodily samples can be screened for BAC. These are breath, blood, hair, saliva, and urine. Having someone blow into a tube is much less invasive than, say, collecting urine or blood samples. As a result, breath tests are far more likely to be used by law enforcement during an OUI stop. Although saliva tests can be administered in an equally non-invasive manner, they are less common than breath tests. This is likely due to the ease of administering a breath test, and the fact that it doesn’t require the handling of bodily fluids (saliva).

How Does a Breathalyzer Work?

There are various types of breathalyzer machines. While some use the “wet chemical” technique to measure BAC, the most common technique, infrared spectroscopic analysis, measures the content of alcohol in exhaled vapors. These vapors absorb light waves of a specific frequency based on the concentration of alcohol. A computer, in turn, translates this information into a BAC measurement.

Can You Trick a Breath Test?

If you are actually intoxicated, none of the myriad “tricks” circulating out there can help you beat the test. Regardless of how many breath mints or onions you eat, or if you hide a penny under your tongue, the breath test will know if you are drunk. Some rumored methods of beating the test, such as gurgling with mouthwash, can actually raise your BAC.

Are Breath Tests Always Accurate?

Definitely not. However, breathalyzer results are widely accepted as accurate by law enforcement and most courts. The reality is, breathalyzer readings can be off by up to 15 percent when compared to a more accurate blood draw. Courts have thrown out plenty of breath test results since their inception, but fighting an over-the-limit reading requires the assistance of an experienced, and highly-skilled MA OUI defense attorney.

Can I Fight My Test Results in Court?

Of course you can. There are multiple regulations surrounding the use and maintenance of breath tests. A skilled lawyer can analyze the details of your arrest, and the device’s maintenance records, to determine if all regulations were followed to a T. Readings can vary based on the device’s temperature, the individual’s body temperature, the presence of hematocrit in the blood, poor device maintenance, and an improperly calibrated device. Continue reading

Driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs is a criminal offense with serious penalties in MA. But if you are arrested for OUI with a child in the car, those penalties are likely to be significantly harsher. You may even face additional charges. Case in point – a West Virginia woman is facing felony charges for child neglect following her drunk driving arrest; she had an 18-month old in the car with her at the time of the arrest.

Getting an OUI conviction with a child in the car typically carries more serious consequences. As with all criminal offenses, however, penalties vary widely based on a variety of factors. If you have no prior criminal history and you were barely above the legal limit, for example, you will likely face a lesser charge than an individual with a criminal history and high blood alcohol content (BAC). If you have previously been convicted of multiple OUIs, you may be facing a felony charge, even without having a child in the car. But the presence of a child will almost certainly result in more serious charges.

To be safe, you should never drink and drive, especially with children in the car. But if you make a mistake, it is in your best interest to hire a Boston criminal defense attorney immediately.

OUI with Child Endangerment

In 2005, it became a separate criminal offense to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol with a child under 14 in the car. It was enacted as part of Melanie’s Law, legislation intended to enhance OUI-related penalties. If you have been charged with OUI with child endangerment, you may be facing the following penalties:

  • First offense – Up to two-and-a-half years in jail, with a minimum of 90 days. Fines of up to $5,000 and a one-year license suspension.
  • Second and subsequent offenses – Up to two-and-a-half years in jail, with a minimum of six months. Fines of up to $10,000 and a three-year license suspension.

If your actions place a child in danger of physical or emotional harm – whether negligently or intentionally – child endangerment charges may follow. In addition, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) may get involved to assess whether it would be in the children’s best interests to be removed from the home and placed in foster care.

A DCF investigation may also occur if no children were present in the car at the time of your arrest. If DCF believes that your actions may jeopardize the health and safety of your children, they can conduct an investigation even if your offense didn’t directly involve a child. In either case, it is essential to seek the help of experienced legal counsel. A MA criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you have been charged with OUI with child endangerment or any other crime.  Continue reading

In MA – and all states – a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher will likely result in an OUI or DWI conviction. If you happen to be under 21 at the time of your arrest, you can be convicted if your BAC is .01 percent. And the penalties for even a first-offense OUI can wreak havoc on a person’s life.

Do Any of these Scenarios Sound Familiar?

Fortunately, there are multiple defenses against drunk driving charges. Maybe the breath test readings were inaccurate, or maybe you were never read the Miranda warning. Although an  above-limit breath test reading is difficult to challenge, it is not impossible. If any of the scenarios below sound familiar, an experienced MA OUI defense attorney may be able to get your charges reduced, or dismissed entirely.

  • No probable cause: If police stopped your vehicle and arrested you for OUI without probable cause, any evidence may be inadmissible in court. There are some exceptions to the probable cause rule, however. Namely, checkpoints and roadblocks.
  • No Miranda warnings: If you were taken into police custody but weren’t read the Miranda warnings prior to questioning, any statement you made likely cannot be used against you.
  • The officer failed to warn you that refusing a breath test would result in an automatic license suspension: If you were never warned of this consequence, breath test results may be inadmissible in court.
  • The breath test was administered incorrectly: If the officer did not comply with state requirements dictating how the breath test should be maintained and calibrated, the test results may be thrown out.
  • Inaccurate test results: Test results may also be inadmissible if a faulty machine, an incompetent technician or other circumstances created the potential for error. Breath test machines can give inaccurate readings due to certain foods and medications. For example, taking a non-impairing prescription drug prior to the test could lead to a misleading result.

The above defenses have the best shot at being successful with the help of an experienced Boston OUI defense attorney. Even a first-offense OUI can lead to license suspension, the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID), hefty fines and jail time. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that an attorney is not necessary. The right legal counsel can be the difference between a clean record and time behind bars.

Penalties for OUI Offenses in MA 1st Offense – Up to 30 months in jail and fines of up to $5,000

2nd Offense – Up to 30 months in jail and fines of up to $10,000

3rd Offense – Up to five years in jail and fines of up to $25,000

In addition to the above penalties, an OUI conviction also carries a license suspension and – in some cases – the need to install an IID in your vehicle. For a first offense, the standard license suspension is one year. For a second offense, you will lose your license for two years, and a third offense will result in an eight-year license suspension. Long story short, don’t drink and drive. But if you made a mistake, hire an experienced attorney today. Continue reading

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