It doesn’t take a genius to know that drunk or drugged driving is very dangerous.
Sadly, however, not many people care about it.
This is why the State of Massachusetts implements strict DUI laws that come with harsh penalties.
But what are the Massachusetts DUI laws?
And what about the penalties?
Well, we’re here to tell you everything you need to know about the state’s DUI laws, the penalties, the dangers of DUI, and so much more.
So without further ado, let’s get started!
DUI Laws in Massachusetts
When it comes to DUI, or OUI (operating under the influence), Massachusetts has several laws relating to it. These are:
- Illegal BAC levels
- Zero Tolerance Law
- Implied Consent Law
- Drugs and driving
- Open Container Law
To help you understand and follow these laws, we’re going to detail them in the sections below.
Illegal BAC Levels
To assess a DUI, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels will be measured. Now, you will be charged with OUI if your BAC levels reach:
- 0.08% or greater for drivers above 21 years old
- 0.04% or greater for drivers that hold a commercial license
To find your BAC levels, a police officer may ask you to take a breath or blood test.
Understanding Your BAC Levels
But what exactly are BAC levels?
BAC level, or blood alcohol concentration level, is the amount of unprocessed alcohol in your blood. It’s expressed in percent (%).
A 0% BAC level means that you have no alcohol in your system. If you have a 0.02% BAC level, you may already feel some signs of drunkenness and this may be manifested by a slight loss of better judgment.
When you reach 0.08%, you are already considered impaired, making it very dangerous to go out and drive.
Zero Tolerance Law
The Zero Tolerance Law simply states that there is “zero tolerance” for drivers under 21 years old.
Since you are not even legally allowed to drink yet, a BAC level of 0.02% will already be charged as underage DUI.
As a result of that, your license will immediately be suspended. This strict penalty comes from the fact that drivers under the age of 21 are more susceptible to accidents when drunk driving.
Implied Consent Law
The Implied Consent Law states…
“If a traffic enforcer has reasonable cause for suspecting you of drunk/drugged driving, they will pull you over and you MUST take the breath or blood test.”
This test will determine your BAC level to see whether or not you were operating under the influence.
It’s called ‘implied consent’ as you are agreeing to obey this law once you get a Massachusetts driver’s license.
Drugs and Driving
Drugs, even prescription drugs, can affect your ability to drive properly and safely. If you are taking any form of drugs (over-the-counter, prescription, illegal), you are not allowed to drive.
Under Massachusetts law, the use of marijuana is already decriminalized. However, this doesn’t mean that you can drive while using/have used marijuana. You are still not allowed to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana.
If you are found to have drugs in your system (legal or illegal), then you will be charged with DUI.
Open Container Law
To further prevent and discourage drinking and driving, Massachusetts has an Open Container Law that prohibits open alcohol drinks inside a vehicle.
In other words, anyone in a moving vehicle is not allowed to drink alcohol, whether that’s the driver or the passengers.
DUI Penalties in Massachusetts
What happens if you are caught operating under the influence?
Well, you will face harsh penalties, as shown in the table below.
|1st||$500-$5,000||Period of incarceration of up to 2 ½ years||One year*|
|2nd||$600-$10,000||30 days – 2 ½ years||Two years|
|3rd||$1,000-$15,000||150 days – 5 years||Eight years|
|4th||$1,500-$25,000||1-5 years||Ten years|
|5th and subsequent offenses||$2,000-$50,000||2-5 years||Lifetime|
*The court may allow you to reduce your license suspension if you complete an alcohol education course.
For those who are below 21 years old, additional license suspensions are given:
- Drivers below 18 – 30 days + 1 year
- The court can reduce the year suspension to 180 days if you complete a state-approved alcohol education course
- Drivers 18-21 – 30 days + 180 days
- The court can waive the 180-day suspensions if you complete a state-approved alcohol education course
If you refuse a breath or blood test, you will also be penalized. Penalties depend on your age and the number of offenses you’ve had. Check the table below.
|21 and above||1st offense||180 days|
|2nd offense||3 years|
|3rd offense||5 years|
|4th and subsequent offenses||Lifetime|
|18-21 years old||1st offense||3 years + 180 days|
|2nd offense||3 years + 180 days|
|3rd offense||5 years + 180 days|
|4th and subsequent offenses||Lifetime|
Dangers of DUI
Why does Massachusetts implement strict DUI laws and harsh penalties?
It’s simple — driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol makes you and others vulnerable to several dangers.
For one, you are more prone to accidents and collisions. The side effects of alcohol and drugs can give you blurry vision, slow reactions, etc.
Alcohol is a depressant, so even if you feel alert or hyper after drinking, your judgment is somewhat skewed towards making bad decisions. In turn, you might end up speeding or changing lanes too often.
Second, you may harm people or vehicles on the road. In a collision, there is a chance that you can injure someone – a pedestrian or passengers of another vehicle – because of recklessness or any side effect of alcohol and drugs.
These two are just some of the dangers of DUI, but both are enough to paint a picture of how dangerous it is — if not for yourself, then for those who are on the road with you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Want to know more about DUI in Massachusetts? Here are some FAQs.
Is DUI a felony or misdemeanor in Massachusetts?
A DUI in Massachusetts is considered a misdemeanor if it’s only your first and second offense. But it already becomes a felony on your third and subsequent offenses.
How likely is jail time for a first-time DUI in Massachusetts?
For a first DUI, jail time is highly likely. That said, it is a period of incarceration of up to 2 ½ years in the House of Correction. Of course, this can be reduced depending on how your attorney can come up with an agreement with the court.
How many points is a DUI in MA?
Since DUI is considered a major traffic violation, you will be given 5 points on your driving record.
How long does a DUI stay on your record in MA?
In most cases, DUIs stay on your record forever. However, you can try to get this record expunged after 10 years. Take note that the chances of getting a DUI out of your record are still very low.
Can you get a DUI expunged in Massachusetts?
Yes, you may get a DUI expunged. To do that, though, your DUI violation should have proof that there was an error made by the police officer or that the results were fraudulent.
And that was everything you needed to know about the Massachusetts DUI laws.
Whether it’s because of the heavy penalties or the danger, it’s always a good idea to avoid operating under the influence. Remember, it never has a positive outcome.
So, to avoid all that, keep this one thing in mind — DON’T DRINK OR DO DRUGS AND DRIVE.
Be a safe and responsible driver!