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When a motorist is stopped by police in Massachusetts for suspicion of driving under the influence, they will be asked to either give a breath sample to determine their BAC level or be asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests, such as walking in a straight line, or a combination of both. If the driver is found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08 percent or above, they are considered to be in violation of the law and may be convicted for their crimes. Minors (drivers under 21 years of age) and commercial drivers are charged with OUI at a lower BAC level – minors at .02 percent and commercial vehicle drivers at .04 percent.
In Massachusetts, driving under the influence charges are referred to as operating under the influence, or OUI, charges. The state imposes strict penalties for drivers convicted of operating under the influence, such as expensive fines, having one’s license revoked and even going to jail. Punishments are even more severe for those who are considered to be “extreme OUI,” meaning having a BAC level of .20 percent or higher, and for repeat OUI offenders.
However, there are greater chances for a OUI offender have their charges dismissed in Massachusetts than in many other states. Massachusetts has what are called “per se” OUI laws. Per se laws state that a motorist may only be found guilty of OUI if their blood alcohol content level is at .08 percent or above and if a judge or jury believes the test to determine intoxication was properly performed and led to an accurate reading. Massachusetts law allows for the possibility of an error with a breathalyzer device, environmental factors and even poor record keeping habits of the arresting officer, all which contribute to a breath test result being thrown out in court.
Unlike other states, a motorist in Massachusetts may refuse a breath test and it will have no bearing on their criminal charges in court. While a driver may not incur any criminal charges if they refuse to submit to OUI testing, they can still be charged with administrative penalties, which means they can lose their license for a minimum of180 days. This is a stipulation of what is called Melanie’s Law. Melanie’s law increases the time a driver’s license is suspended if they refuse to submit to a breath test.
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