The statutes that govern Massachusetts DUI law remain the same, no matter which county your charges originate from or in which court the case will be tried. Chapter 90, Section 24 of Massachusetts General Laws describe all of the standards, limits, processes, and consequences associated with drunk driving anywhere in the Commonwealth.
Nonetheless, there are several critical reasons to seek legal counsel from an attorney familiar with the county in which your case resides. Let’s examine the ins and outs of Massachusetts DUI law, across the state and in individual counties:
Statewide Standards for Massachusetts DUI Law
The Massachusetts “per se” law, which makes it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher, is in effect across all counties in the state. Drivers of drinking age who exceed the legal limit on a BAC test will be charged with OUI—in any county. Drivers under 21 will face automatic RMV-imposed license suspensions if they violate the zero-tolerance policy by registering a BAC at or over 0.02%, according to Massachusetts’ zero-tolerance policy.
However, BAC test results (commonly from a breathalyzer device) don’t guarantee that you’ll be found guilty of OUI in a Massachusetts court. There are a plethora of legal scenarios that could invalidate the test or demonstrate that it is not accurate evidence of guilt. For example, improper record-keeping by law enforcement, machine malfunctions, irregular calibration, or faulty administration of the test could all render the results inaccurate. There are also valid medical reasons to doubt the results of the test.
In the event that you are charged with OUI in Massachusetts (anywhere in the state), you will have the opportunity to fight the charges at trial in front of a jury of six or before a judge in cases where the defendant has waived their right to a jury trial.
Massachusetts DUI Law in Each County
A DUI / OUI attorney with demonstrated experience in your county of Massachusetts will be better prepared to defend you, even though the broader drunk driving laws remain the same across the state. Why? Well, the court has broad discretion at sentencing to determine the probation conditions, whether probation is allowed at all (in lieu of jail), and whether a Continuance Without a Finding (by admitting to sufficient facts) will be appropriate to your case.
The track record of preferences within the local Massachusetts county court can substantially impact the defenses selected by your OUI attorney. If your legal counsel is familiar with the judges, prosecutors, and behavior of the county court, they’ll be well equipped to build a stronger case with respect to those preferences.
And the impact on your life can vary significantly. A case that is sentenced under the standard penalties for a first offense, for example, could include:
- Up to 2 ½ years in a House of Correction
- Fines of $500-$5,000
- A 1-year license suspension (with work/education hardship considered in 3 months, general hardship in 6 months)
Meanwhile, defendants who can achieve sentencing under an alternative disposition for first offenders would face consequences such as:
- A year of probation (and no jail time)
- Mandatory participation in an alcohol-drug education program (funded by the defendant)
- A 45 to 90-day license suspension (210 days for drivers under age 21)
The disparity between these two results is reason enough to seek an OUI lawyer who is intimately familiar with local county judges' methodologies and legal perspectives. Put your best foot forward if you find yourself facing the consequences of Massachusetts DUI law, and find an experienced local defense attorney.