OUI/DUI Laws in Massachusetts

Learn the key facts about OUI/DUI in Massachusetts.

In Massachusetts, you can get an OUI (operating under the influence), sometimes called a DUI (driving under the influence), if you operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher, regardless of whether your driving ability was actually impaired. However, you can also get an OUI for operating a vehicle while impaired as the result of ingesting alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two.

While most OUIs involve driving, it’s possible to get an OUI without actually moving your vehicle. For instance, you might be culpable for OUI if—while under the influence—you get into your car, start the engine, and turn on your headlights. To make an arrest, police don’t have to wait for you to put your car in gear. In certain situations, this rule might allow police to stop drunk driving before it begins.

And the law in Massachusetts says that if you’re operating a vehicle, you've given consent to submit to a chemical test for the purpose of determining the amount of alcohol in your blood. Here are some details on the consequences of refusing to take a chemical test in Massachusetts and other details about Massachusetts OUI law.

In Massachusetts, what are the consequences of refusing to take a chemical test (usually a breathalyzer or blood test) when suspected of OUI?

Here are the consequences for not taking a breathalyzer or blood test in Massachusetts, broken out by whether this is your first, second, or third offense:

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense

180-day license suspension

3-year license suspension with a prior OUI conviction

5-year license suspension with two prior OUI convictions

It's important to note that the suspension period imposed for refusing a chemical test is in addition to any other suspension that might be imposed for an OUI charge or conviction. And if your license is suspended for a refusal, you can’t get a hardship until you complete the refusal suspension period. A hardship license is typically for driving to and from work, school, and medical appointments.

In Massachusetts, when do police have to measure your BAC?

In Massachusetts, law enforcement officers are supposed to measure your BAC within a “reasonable time” of when you were driving. Generally, a chemical test conducted within three hours of when you were driving meets this criterion. But, depending on the circumstances of your case, a reasonable time could be more or less than three hours. (See Com. v. Colturi, 448 Mass. 809 (2007).)

What is the maximum BAC for drivers under 21 in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, the maximum BAC for drivers who are under 21 (considered minors under some drinking and driving laws) is .02%.

What are the minimum jail times for an OUI in Massachusetts?

Here are the minimum jail times for an OUI in Massachusetts, broken out by whether this is your first, second, or third offense:

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense

No minimum jail term required

30 days jail, or 2-year probation including 14-day inpatient alcohol treatment program

150 days jail

Alternative “24D Disposition”

For a driver who’s convicted of a first-offense OUI (and some drivers convicted of a second OUI), the judge can impose an alternative disposition, sometimes called a 24D disposition. This disposition requires the driver to participate in a “driver alcohol education program,” which typically consists of 16 weeks (usually 32 to 40 hours total) of alcohol education and group therapy. But a 24D disposition also has some significant benefits.

A driver with a first-offense OUI generally faces a one-year license suspension and won’t be eligible for a hardship license for three months. However, with a 24D disposition, the driver's license will be suspended for only 45 to 90 days and the driver can get a hardship license immediately after starting a driver alcohol education program. (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 90, § 24D (2016).)

A judge can order a 24D disposition for a driver with a second-offense OUI only if the prior OUI/DUI conviction occurred more than ten years before the current offense. For second offenses, a 24D disposition is usually called a “Cahill disposition.” (See Com. v. Cahill, 442 Mass. 127 (2004).)

How long will prior OUI/DUI convictions remain relevant for sentencing purposes in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, for most purposes, prior OUI/DUI convictions stay on your record (and can be counted against you when you are being sentenced for another OUI offense) forever.

However, if you have only one prior OUI/DUI conviction that occurred more than ten years ago, the judge can order an alternative disposition, often called a Cahill or 24D disposition (see above).

Can an OUI be “pleaded down” to a "wet reckless" in Massachusetts?

A defendant might receive a "wet reckless," or a conviction of reckless driving involving alcohol, as a result of a plea bargain in which an OUI charge is reduced to reckless driving. Massachusetts has no law prohibiting plea bargains in OUI cases. So, depending on the circumstances of your case, it might be possible for a lawyer to plead your OUI down to a reckless driving charge.

(Read more about Massachusetts reckless driving law and the consequences of a conviction.)

Are ignition interlock devices (IIDs) required for convicted OUI offenders in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, IIDs are required for all drivers who are convicted of a second or subsequent OUI. For these drivers, IIDs are mandatory for getting a hardship license during a suspension period. And all drivers with two or more OUIs must have an IID on all their vehicles for two years after completing a suspension.

Where can I get more information about OUI laws in Massachusetts?

Nolo's DUI/DWI topic has many helpful articles, including a Drunk Driving, DUI, and DWI FAQ. For more help after an OUI arrest, see Nolo's Lawyer Directory, where you can view in-depth profiles of Massachusetts OUI attorneys in your area.

For more information about the legal limit, see the Blood Alcohol Level Chart

Last updated on 3/10/2016.

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