Articles Posted in OUI/Drunk Driving

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

In MA, any driver who has been granted a hardship license or is eligible for license reinstatement after an OUI is required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in their vehicle. An IID is connected to your car’s ignition. To start the engine, you must first blow into the device, “passing” a breath test. If the IID registers any alcohol on your breath, the car will not start. The driver must also blow into the device periodically while operating the vehicle.

Many states now require IIDs under certain circumstances. In MA, you must have an IID installed in your vehicle if you are eligible for a hardship license after two or more convictions for OUI, and if you are eligible for reinstatement after two or more OUI convictions. In both cases, the IID must remain in your vehicle for at least two years. A MA OUI defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with OUI.

Are IIDs Always Accurate?

An IID works much like a breathalyzer, which measures a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) if stopped for OUI. IIDs work using either semi-conductors or fuel cell technology, although there is quite a bit of controversy over the accuracy of those that use semi-conductors. That being said, all IIDs can produce false positives.

Once the negative breath test is registered, the vehicle’s engine will start. However, the driver will be required to periodically pull over to perform another breath test in order to keep the vehicle moving. This is to prevent drivers from starting the vehicle sober and then opening a beer – or several – as they drive. If these periodic tests (called rolling tests) are not performed, your vehicle’s engine will shut off.

What is My IID Recording?

The IID also records information about your driving habits and test results. The IID will record anytime:

  • you have a measurable BAC,
  • you attempt to start the car without taking the test,
  • you refuse to take the rolling test,
  • you fail the rolling test, or
  • you tamper with or disconnect the IID,

as well as:

  • the distance your vehicle has traveled, and
  • the number of times you stopped or started your vehicle.

The Cost of an IID

Although total cost varies, installation and maintenance may set you back by up to $2,000 annually. Here is a general breakdown:

  • Installation: a minimum of $100
  • Monthly maintenance fee: up to $80
  • Monthly rental fee: up to $100

There are also additional fees for things such as obtaining restricted license classification and removing that classification once you have completed the program.

Participation in the IID program can be time consuming as well. You will need to schedule regular appointments during which the recorded information will be retrieved and the system will be recalibrated. And if your IID malfunctions or “locks up,” you will need to take it in for maintenance. A Boston OUI defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with OUI. Continue reading

Yesterday, we began discussing the case of Florian Roshi, 34 from Weymouth and hereinafter the “Defendant”. We covered how he got into alittle trouble with the criminal laws about children and OUI.

As described in the Boston herald, he is alleged to have, with a young child in the car, driven his truck while under the influence of drugs, gotten into an accident in which the small child was thrown from the vehicle and left the scene for awhile. He did come back, though. A bystander was helping the child, the police say they found various drugs in the truck and he was arrested.

I also explained that his children were now involuntary guests with the Department of Children and Families (DCF). In fact, a spokeswoman for DCF has confirmed that the agency “took emergency custody of … all children living in his home” upon being notified of the Defendant’s situation.  She declined to comment on any prior involvement with the family, citing privacy laws. The prosecutor at the Arraignment, however, apparently not as concerned for privacy rights, announced that the 4-year-old “has, in the past — recent past — been the focus of a DCF investigation.”

To add insult to injury, the Registry of Motor Vehicles has revoked the Defendant’s license indefinitely. Apparently, he had a 12-page record of vehicular offenses which date back to 2001 and includes three surchargeable accidents last year.

So, contrary to what I said yesterday, it is a “Commonwealth tripple whammy.”

Attorney Sam’s Take On Such Massachusetts “Whammys”

It is not unusual for drivers to have children. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that, when things like this happen, it can trigger problems in various arenas.

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Drunk drivers beware! Those who feel they can “get by” driving after drinking alcohol should take a tip from some of the new advertisements put out by the Commonwealth.

As the holiday season fades into our rearview mirrors, we return to streets of ice, roads of varying  repair and some questionable drivers.  Most of the parties are over. This by no means means that no one is partying anymore.

And driving.

Recently, new advertisements from the Commonwealth have taken and interesting tact. Law enforcement realized that people know that to drive “drunk “ is a huge risk.  However, it seems to be human nature for someone who is perhaps “slightly intoxicated“ to misunderstand.  Such a person might assume that, because they are neither stumbling around incoherently or vomiting out the nights imbibement, that they are safe to drive.

Think about it. How many times have you heard people say something like, “I’m not drunk. I’m just a little buzzed.”

How many times have you heard yourself say it?

The new ads to which I refer tackle the misconception that driving while “just a little buzzed, is “ok”

It’s not ok.

    Attorney Sam’s Take On ”Buzzed Driving” And Other Distorted Thinking

Between my days as a prosecutor and my over over 20 years as a defense attorney, I have handled a great number of drunk driving cases. As common as this crime is, there are still misconceptions about it. This new ad campaign takes one of those misconceptions on.

Some folks think that they have to be falling down drunk in order to be intoxicated under the meaning of the OUI laws. They would be wrong. It really does not take all that much to hit the magic number to show intoxication on a breathalyzer. In fact, the breathalyzer itself is often misunderstood.

Continue reading

If you are at least 21, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or higher can result in an OUI arrest in MA. The limit for under-age individuals is .02 percent (basically, zero tolerance).  Licensed commercial drivers (CDL holders) have a limit of .04 percent. If police suspect that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol during a traffic stop, you will likely be asked to submit to a breath test.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Alcohol is metabolized at different rates for different people, and based on a variety of factors. These include your gender, weight, the type of alcohol you consumed, how quickly you consumed it, and whether or not you drank on an empty or full stomach. With so many variables, it is impossible to determine your BAC without a tool designed specifically for that purpose. Even one alcoholic beverage, consumed quickly by a person with a small build – on an empty stomach – can result in an unsafe level of impairment. The best way to avoid an OUI is to always have a designated driver if you plan to drink.

If a breath test indicates that you are above the legal limit, you may be placed under arrest. Although breath tests  – commonly referred to as breathalyzers – sometimes provide inaccurate readings, an over-the-limit result is compelling evidence that you were driving under the influence. This is especially true when a reading is particularly high.

Can I Refuse the Breath Test?

You can decline to take the test, but there are serious repercussions for refusing, including a minimum six-month license suspension. Even so, it may be in your best interest to refuse a breath test. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. You will have a better chance of having your OUI charges dismissed if there are no incriminating breath test results and you have solid legal counsel. If the charges are thrown out, your attorney will likely be able to remove the penalties for refusing as well.

If you do submit to the breath test and your reading is over the limit, an experienced Boston OUI defense attorney may still be able to get your charges dismissed. Breath test results are frequently off by up to .02 percent in either direction. If you were barely above the legal limit, a skilled lawyer should be able to present multiple defenses against your charge. That being said, attempting to defend an OUI charge without legal counsel can have severely negative consequences. Don’t make the mistake of trying to go it alone. The right attorney can be the difference between a conviction and a clean record.

Per Se State

Under Melanie’s law, if a breath test registers higher than the legal limit, you are legally presumed to be impaired. MA is a “Per Se” state, which means that over-limit breath test results provide per se evidence of legal intoxication. Therefore, if you agree to the test and the results are over the legal limit, you are presumed to be operating under the influence. In such a case, it is essential to have an experienced Massachusetts OUI defense attorney by your side. Continue reading

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