Articles Tagged with DUI

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One of the most common ways for Massachusetts State Police to charge drivers with Operating Under the Influence (OUI) is through the use of roadblocks and sobriety checkpoints. The purpose of a sobriety checkpoint as defined by the Massachusetts legislature is to “further educate the motoring public and strengthen the public’s awareness to the need of detecting and removing those motorists who operate under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs from our roadways.” Sobriety checkpoints and roadblocks are organized in a joint effort by the State and local police, through which cars traveling on a predetermined road will be stopped and subject to police questioning. This allows officers to take an initial overview of the condition of the car and the condition of the driver, assessing whether the driver could be under the influence of alcohol. If the officer reasonably suspects that the driver may be under the influence of alcohol, he or she will be directed to take a preliminary breath or chemical test or instructed to perform a series of roadside sobriety tests. If you register a 0.08% blood alcohol content during a roadside sobriety test or breath test in Massachusetts, you may be charged with operating under the influence and face serious consequences. In instances such as these, the evidence of ones impairment while operating a vehicle are exclusively found in the results of the breath, chemical, or roadside sobriety test issued by the police officer. The results of these tests are often incorrect or inaccurate due to human and machine errors. An aggressive and accomplished Massachusetts OUI defense attorney will know how to proceed with your case and achieve the most favorable outcome in the event you are charged with OUI at a roadblock.

Fourth Amendment Conflict
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure, thus it is illegal to stop or search someone without a search warrant or at least probable cause. While the U.S. Supreme Court has made the OUI exemption to the Constitution, twelve states have found that sobriety checkpoints violate their own state constitutions or have outlawed them. In these states, individuals have more protections against unreasonable searches, and have banned the use of police sobriety roadblocks. However, this is not the case in Massachusetts. In the 1980’s, Massachusetts’s residents challenged the constitutionality of the use of such roadblocks to catch those driving under the influence. In Commonwealth v. McGeoghegan, 389 Mass. 137 (1983) and Commonwealth v. Trumble, 396 Mass. 81, 92 (1985), the Massachusetts Supreme Court found that the State police’s method of using roadblocks to detect drunk drivers was reasonable under both the State and Federal constitution. The adjudication of these cases did however prompt the Massachusetts Supreme Court to outline the necessary requirements to establish a legal roadblock. For a roadblock to be permissible under Massachusetts state law, it appears that the selection of motor vehicles to be stopped must not be arbitrary, safety must be assured, motorists’ inconvenience must be minimized and assurance must be given that the procedure is being conducted pursuant to a plan devised by law enforcement supervisory personnel. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts also requires the state police to notify the media within four days that a sobriety checkpoint is going to be held on a specific date in a specific county.

The biggest issue with the use of roadblocks in Massachusetts is that police officers do not have to witness any erratic behavior or dangerous driving to pull you over; in other words, there exists no probable cause for the stop. This lack of probable cause leads to the dismissal of many OUI cases in Massachusetts, as the police officer will be required to admit that the individual’s driving or conduct was never at issue. An experienced Massachusetts OUI criminal defense attorney will know the best defenses and strategies to win your case. In the event that you are charged with an OUI at a roadblock, speak to a smart and qualified attorney immediately.
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In a recent ruling representing a change in the interpretation of Melanie’s Law, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has ruled that the Massachusetts Legislature did not intend that an “admission to sufficient facts” also known as a “CWOF” or “continuance without a finding of guilt” in a drunk driving case to be treated as a conviction by the Registry of Motor Vehicles when acting pursuant to G.L. c.90, § 24(1)(f)(1) to suspend an operator’s driver’s license for more that 180 days due to the driver’s refusal to take a breathalyzer test.

In so holding, the SJC decided that a person charged with operating under the influence of alcohol who receives a continuance without a finding -a routine disposition for first-time drunk driving offenders-shall not have their case counted as a first offense conviction on their record. The lawyer for the Registry of Motor Vehicles contended that a CWOF should be treated as a conviction subjecting a repeat (DWI/OUI) offenders to the additional license suspension penalties.

The case name is Souza v. Registry of Motor Vehicles and was decided on May 17, 2012 as reported in the Boston Herald. In this case, a defendant arrested and charged with OUI admitted to sufficient facts for a finding of guilty but he did not plead guilty and his case was continued without a finding and later dismissed after he successfully completed his probationary terms. The defendant was arrested again thirteen years later and he had refused to submit to a breathalyzer test. Later, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles suspended his driver’s license for three years pursuant to G.L. c.90, § 24(1)(f)(1) which directs that the RMV suspend the license for three years for a breath test refusal if the driver has been previously convicted of an OUI crime. If there is no previous conviction, the RMV suspension is for 180 days.
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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.

PENALTIES ATTACHED

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.
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