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OUI/DUI: The Differences Between Misdemeanor and Felony Charges

When you face a charge for driving under the influence, you may feel hopelessly discouraged. Regardless of whether this is your first time, the penalties for a DUI/OUI conviction can negatively impact the rest of your life. But don’t panic just yet: With experienced legal counsel, you may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed altogether. Our Quincy OUI attorneys at Flanagan & Associates discuss the key differences between a misdemeanor and a felony charge for operating under the influence, and what to do when you’re facing either one.

What Constitutes an OUI/DUI in Massachusetts?

The laws for driving under the influence vary from state to state, and so do the associated penalties. In Massachusetts, the laws are incredibly strict, and you can receive a charge for more than drunk driving. Even if you realize you are too intoxicated to drive and attempt to pull over, merely sitting in your car with the ignition on can invite an OUI, or operating under the influence, charge. These charges also cover drunk driving, but any operation of a vehicle with blood alcohol levels above the legal limit of 0.08% may result in an OUI/DUI. Additionally, the limit is lower if you are a commercial truck driver, so even running your engine with a 0.04% BAC can constitute an OUI.

Penalties for OUI Convictions: Misdemeanors Versus Felonies

In Massachusetts, a first-time OUI conviction means you could receive up to 30 months in jail, face a year-long suspension of your driver’s license, and pay criminal fines ranging from $500-$5,000, as well as administrative fees up to $1,200 (Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 90, Section 24). It’s unusual for first-time offenders to receive more than a misdemeanor charge, but it can happen. Misdemeanors will stay on your permanent record, so it’s important not to take these charges lightly. You can also be required to attend DUI school or take other rehabilitative measures.

If you’re convicted of a second offense, the penalties will increase. In 2005, Massachusetts passed a law commonly referred to as “Melanie’s Law,” which raised the bar for OUI penalties throughout the state. You can get your license suspended for up to 3 years, and face fines up to $10,000 if your license has been suspended before. Getting pulled over with a child in the car for a second time will land you both an OUI and a reckless child endangerment charge, which can increase the maximum jail time to 5 years. You may also be required to use an IID or interlock ignition device for up to 2 years, which prohibits you from driving your car when it detects a 0.02% BAC or higher.

Once you receive a third OUI/DUI, you will be charged with a felony, and face mandatory jail time of 150 days, plus any additional time required by the judge. Not only that, you may lose your license for up to 8 years – nearly a decade without driving. Your likelihood of finding jobs or adequate housing will dramatically decrease for the future.

How Can I Prepare for My Drunk Driving Defense?

Mistakes happen, and when they do, the law is unforgiving. However, there are plenty of legal defenses your counsel can provide, even if you were technically in the wrong. In some cases, unfair prejudice from the police can also make the difference between a harsh conviction and a few penalties.

Some of the most common defenses against OUI/DUI include:

  • The police failed to observe the mandatory 15-minute observation period before asking for a breathalyzer test.
  • The field sobriety test was conducted incorrectly, or you had a health condition that made it impossible for you to pass.
  • The blood test or breathalyzer test was calibrated inaccurately.
  • Your BAC was actually at an acceptable level at the time you were pulled over, but because of metabolic absorption into the bloodstream, it appeared higher on a later test.

The most important thing to remember with an OUI/DUI charge is that you should seek skilled legal counsel. These cases are often surrounded by a miasma of strong emotion and prejudice. You still have the right to defend yourself, and when you work with Flanagan & Associates, you can rest easy knowing our Client’s Choice award-winning criminal defense attorneys will work hard on your behalf.

Fight for your rights today when you contact our Quincy OUI attorneys at Flanagan & Associates. With a 9.7 Superb rating on Avvo, we can help you craft the best defense for your case in Quincy and Hingham.