Operating Under the Influence in Massachusetts: A misdemeanor not to take lightly

When you are charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the official charge in Massachusetts is Operating Under the Influence (OUI). Today, the terms ‘OUI’ ‘DUI’ and ‘DWI’ are used interchangeably. Operating under the influence has become one of the most commonly encountered offenses in Massachusetts. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 17,500 people were killed in automobile collisions involving alcohol in 2002. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this represents 41 percent of the 42,815 people killed in all traffic accidents and crashes that year. Statistical evidence such as this lead to the passing of ‘Melanie’s Law’ in 2005, the purpose of which was to enhance the penalties attached to OUI offenders.

Being charged with an OUI is a serious offense in the state of Massachusetts, and someone charged would be well advised to seek legal counsel. A person may be found guilty of Operating Under the Influence (OUI) if they are 1) at least 21 and 2) register at .08% or higher when tested for your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If you’re younger than 21, you will face administrative penalties if you test at .02 or higher, plus standard charges at .08 or higher. If you are convicted, the penalties can be harsh and include imprisonment, significant fines, and suspension of driver’s license, probation, community service sentence, and mandatory enrollment in DUI traffic school.


Being charged with OUI for the first time can be an extremely stressful and frightening experience. However, retaining an experienced Massachusetts defense attorney for your case can relax the situation and minimize the apprehension. In the event one is found guilty of an OUI first-offense, an individual faces a maximum 2 ½ years in jail, a $5,000 fine, and a 5-year license suspension at your RMV hearing. Drivers arrested for a first OUI offense can get their sentences reduced by agreeing to complete a state-approved alcohol education program. This is not an option after the first offense.

As you probably expected, the penalties for a second offense OUI are more severe. In any case, a qualified OUI defense attorney can significantly reduce the harsh penalties you will be facing. If convicted of a second offense it is possible you will be punished by a fine of at least $600 to the maximum $10,000, and imprisonment for a minimum of 60 days ranging to 2 ½ years; Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 90, § 24. In addition, the Registry of Motor Vehicles will suspend your driver’s license for 2 years when you are convicted on a second offense OUI.

A third offense OUI is a very serious criminal charge, and is now considered a felony in the state of Massachusetts. If convicted, a jail sentence of 150 days is mandatory and can extend from 180 days to 5 years in a state prison. The fines will likely range from $1000 to $15,000 depending on the specific circumstances of your case. If you hire an experienced OUI defense attorney, a trial may be in your best interest because your attorney can try to get the charge against you dismissed.

In addition to the legal repercussions associated with OUI charges, an offender should also keep in mind fees such as towing, bail, court costs, insurance surcharges, and attorney fees. It is very important to understand the penalties associated with OUI offenses, and to hire an attorney has experience in this area of the law as it could be the difference between facing up to 5 years in jail or walking away as a free person. If you or someone you know has been charged with OUI/DUI/DWI in the state of Massachusetts Patrick J. Murphy is available 24/7 for a free consultation. Please call: (617) 367-0450 or contact us online.

Related Reading: Drunk Driving and Roadside Field Sobriety Testing in Massachusetts OUI Cases

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