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Penalties for DUI (OUI) in Massachusetts

The first secret many people do not know about being charged with OUI is that it can cost much more than the court and legal fees.  For instance, many drivers are forced to carry SR22 insurance, which can triple the cost of insurance.  There is also a $100 fee when you apply to reinstate your license with the DMV.  OUI infractions are scaled by frequency of occurrence and severity of punishment.  The scale is as follows:

a)      If you have never been convicted of OUI, but an officer has now charged you with OUI, the ultimate charge will be OUI first, or operating under the influence and first time offender.  OUI first offenses are punishable by fine ($500 – $5000), imprisonment not to exceed 2 ½ years, or both.  Sentencing is really up to the judge’s discretion in your case, but typical penalties include:

  • Probation for a year or less
  • Considerable fines
  • 45 – 90 days of driving license suspension
  • lawyer’s fees

Assuming you have not been convicted of/plead guilty to like charges before, courts tend to place the driver on probation (no jail time). DUI first convictions automatically revoke your license for one year, but there are safety nets that allow the state to step in after set periods of time elapse and issue you a new license.

  • The first of these is the right of the accused to go before the Registrar within 15 days of receiving notice of suspension from the arresting officer and have them review the case (see Question 9 below for details).  Assuming this fails, you can appeal to the district court within 30 days but you will be under suspension until their decision is reached.
  • Assuming neither the administrative hearing nor the appeal goes in your favor, after 3 months of your license suspension, you may request a new license for employment/educational purposes by requesting a hearing before the Registrar.  Massachusetts’s Registrar is part of the Department of Transportation.  After 6 months, you may request a new license simply due to hardship posed by not having a license and the Registrar may issue you a new license, provided you show the previous offenses have been dealt with (meaning you can convince the Registrar you will not be a repeat offender). The Registrar has criteria you meet to accomplish this goal.  The main one is attendance of a class.  This link here provides the approved classes by the state and how to apply for attendance. The Registrar’s decisions are appealable if the Registrar denies your request to a 3 panel Board of Appeals.  This link here, will take you to the website of the Registrar and you can download the forms necessary for this process.  This link, here, provides the criteria you must meet to apply for a hearing; and this link, here, provides the hours and locations of such hearings.  The total cost of dealing with a DUI charge plus attorney fees, state fees, etc . . . is usually between $5000 and $10000 when you are all said and done.  Also, once the suspension period has passed, that is when you apply for reinstatement of your license at the RMV.  Unfortunately, this means taking the driving test all over.

b)      OUI second offenses (being charged and convicted/pleading guilty to a prior DUI charge and being charged again) is punishable by fine ($600 – $10000) and imprisonment of 60 days – 2 ½ years.  OUI seconds carry revocation of drivers license for 2 years, but the same safety nets are in place.  Everyone get the 15 day review and 30 day appeal discussed above, but the time you must wait to apply for temporary licenses increases with each additional OUI.  After 1 year you may request a new license for employment/educational purposes.  The links provided above will help you with the Registrar process.  But after an OUI second, your license will only be good for 12 hours a day due to a showing of hardship and that past convictions have been dealt with.  After 18 months, you may again request reinstatement of your license due to hardship, but if granted, an interlock ignition device shall be installed on your car for the duration of the time period you were to go without a license had the new license not been issued.  The typical consequences of an OUI second is 2 years probation, attendance and passing a 14 day treatment program, suspension of your license, the fines and fees, and an ignition interlock device being installed on every car you may drive.

c)       OUI thirds are punishable by fine ($1500 – $25000) and imprisonment of 2 ½ – 5 years.  Note, OUI thirds carry mandatory prison time and you will go to jail.  OUI third convictions carry revocation of license for 10 years, but again, after 5 years from the date of conviction, you may request a hearing based on educational/employments reasons seeking a new license, or 8 years after your conviction based simply on hardship.  Also, the hardship route allows the court to order you place an interlock ignition system on your car.  Typical consequences include: at least half a year in jail, the fines and fees, 8 years of license suspension, and again, an interlock ignition system being installed on ever car you may drive.

d)      OUI fourths carry a punishment of fine ($2000 – $50000) and imprisonment of 2 ½ to 5 years (mandatory).  DUI fourth convictions carry loss of driving privileges for life.  Also, “guilty” under these rules means conviction by a court, pleading guilty to a charge, or nolo contendere (Latin phrase which means you do not say I’m guilty but you do not rebut the government either), and with regards to subsequent OUI charges, it does not matter what the actual punishment was for prior charges.  For instance, if you plead nolo contendere to a OUI first charge and the government placed you on probation but later you were found guilty of OUI second, the court has the discretion to charge you with the maximum punishment available under law for the second OUI.  So just because the court was merciful the first time, does not equate to a guarantee of mercy the second time.

e)      Child below the age of 14 is in the car when you are charged.  This is called Child Endangerment while OUI, and is typically punished with 90 days imprisonment, fines and fees, and one year of license suspension. 

f)       OUI while your license is suspended for another previous OUI.  This typically will result in 1 year imprisonment, fines and fees, and one year of license suspension.

g)      If you are unfortunate enough to drive a commercial vehicle and hold a commercial license (CDL), you will be barred from driving that commercial vehicle for one year, if your BAC is higher than .04.  The officer will also give you an “out-of-service” order valid for 24 hours with any detectible amount of alcohol.  If you were transporting hazardous materials and your BAC was .04 or higher, the driving ban lasts 3 years.  A second offense under these conditions results in loss of driving privilege for commercial vehicles for life.

h)      Persons arrested 20 and younger?  If an officer stops someone suspected of DUI who is 20 or younger, the above presumption does not apply if the BAC is .05 – .08.  For such suspects, .02 or greater BAC (“blood alcohol content”) is enough that the arresting officer may suspend the suspect’s license.  This means Mass. is a zero tolerance state for underage drinking and driving.  The consequences of refusal to submit to a breath test are also harsher, 3 years plus an additional 180 days of driver’s license suspension.  If you submitted to the test and had .02 or higher BAC, the punishment is 30 day suspension of your license.  .08 or a higher BAC will result in the same penalties discussed above (OUI 1st, 2nd, 3rd).


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