Massachusetts Operating Under the Influence FAQ


What is the difference between OUI, DWI, OVI and DUI?

Operating under the influence (OUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI), or driving under the influence (DUI) are all ways to describe the same thing: impaired driving. Impairment (or intoxication) may be the result of alcohol or another chemical substance (e.g., marijuana) or both. To be a criminal offense in Massachusetts, your blood alcohol content must be at or above the legal limit of .08, you have an illegal chemical substance in your system or your driving abilities were otherwise impaired.

In Massachusetts, there are many arrests made daily for OUI. Those arrested are often people like you and me: law-abiding citizens. Attorney Dunn works hard to help you beat an OUI charge or, at a minimum, get the best possible outcome in your unique situation. Contact us at 617-504-4881 to learn more about how we will help you. In the meantime, here are some of the most commonly asked questions we get from our clients when we first meet them about their OUI charge.

What is “blood alcohol content” level?

Blood alcohol content (BAC) is a measurement of the amount of alcohol found in the blood expressed as a percentage. It is calculated in grams per 210 liters of breath, and a BAC of 0.08 means there is 0.08% alcohol by volume. Measuring BAC is a way for law enforcement to calculate the amount of alcohol someone has had and their ability to drive a motor vehicle.

What are my rights during OUI traffic stops?

If you are pulled over due to suspicion of drunk driving or pulled over for a traffic stop and then the police officer suspects impaired or intoxicated driving, you should remember you have certain rights as a U.S. citizen. Namely,

  1. The driver and any passengers have the right to remain silent (except you must show the police your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance upon request); and
  2. If you are a passenger, you are free to leave.

If you are arrested or detained, you have additional rights, including Miranda warnings.

  1. You can say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately.
  2. You have the right to make a local phone call.

If you believe your rights were violated in any way, try to write down everything you remember, including the police officer's agency (state police, town police, etc.), badge number, and patrol car number.

Can I refuse a breathalyzer test in Massachusetts?

You can refuse a a portable/preliminary breath test (PBT). These are portable instruments police have with them to test your breath for alcohol. The results of these tests are typically not admissible against you at trial if you are, in fact, arrested and charged with an OUI offense.

You can also refuse a breathalyzer at the station after arrest. Refusal of a breathalyzer at the station, however, carries with it significant consequences. Those consequences depend on several factors, but you can expect any of the following:

  • Your license may be suspended (180-days up to life).
  • You may still face an OUI charge based on other criteria, such as field sobriety test results, witness testimony and the police officer's observations.
  • You may be subject to license reinstatement fees at the RMV ($500 or more).
  • Loss of CDL (commercial driver's license).

Generally, however, refusing the breathalyzer is not admissible against you at trial in Massachusetts.

What are standardized field sobriety tests (FSTs)?

Standardized field sobriety tests (FSTs) are tests approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These tests are allegedly designed to help police determine whether a driver is intoxicated or not.

There are three standardized FSTs:

  1. the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN test)
  2. the One-Leg Stand Test (OLS test)
  3. the Walk-and-Turn Test

The results of the one leg stand and the walk-and-turn tests may be used as evidence against you in an OUI case. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test (eye test), however, is generally not admissible at trial in Massachusetts unless a qualified medical expert is brought in to explain the test to the judge or jury.

Non-standardized tests, on the other hand, are not validated by NHTSA but may still admissible as evidence in Massachusetts. It is important to speak with a Massachusetts OUI lawyer about the specifics of your case to determine if there may be a viable motion to exclude these non-standardized tests from evidence at trial.

Non-standardized FSTs include:

  • finger to nose test
  • the finger count test
  • the hand pat test
  • the alphabet test
  • the reverse counting test
  • the coin pickup test

Can I refuse field sobriety tests in Massachusetts? 

You may refuse a field sobriety test in Massachusetts, although there may be consequences, such as being asked to complete a breathalyzer test or provide a blood sample. A refusal to complete a field sobriety test typically does not carry the same serious repercussions as refusing a breathalyzer test and such refusal is generally not admissible as evidence against you at trial.

After an OUI arrest in Massachusetts, will my driver's license be suspended or revoked?

There are two different types of suspensions. The first is an administrative suspension where the Massachusetts RMV will suspend your license if you refuse a breathalyzer or have a BAC over a certain level. This means you can lose your driving privileges even when you have not been found guilty of driving while intoxicated or under the influence of a chemical substance.

The other type of suspension occurs when you are convicted of, or admit to, an operating under the influence offense in court. The duration of any court-imposed suspension depends on several factors, including the number of prior offenses (if any) and your driving history. 

What happens after a drunk driving arrest in Massachusetts?

If you are arrested for drunk driving, what happens next depends on the facts and circumstances. It's important to know that OUI arrests result in a criminal process, which can result in a conviction in the absence of a strong OUI defense. A conviction can lead to fines, driver's license suspension/revocation, imprisonment, ignition interlock device (IID) installation and other penalties.

Can I beat a drunk driving charge in Massachusetts?

It is possible to beat a drunk driving charge, although it is not typically an easy process. It will require a thorough understanding of the law and a thorough understanding of the technical nature of field sobriety tests, breath tests, blood tests, and urine tests. Understanding these tests is critical to identifying errors (technical or human-made errors) to highlight the unreliability of the results.

Aside from errors or unreliable test results, an alleged OUI offender may have had their constitutional rights violated. This happens more often than you might imagine. A violation can lead to the inadmissibility of some or all evidence. Without sufficient evidence, the case will be dismissed, or a jury may return with an acquittal.

You will need a drunk driving defense attorney to help you beat an intoxicated driving charge. These cases can be highly technical, as much as legally complex.

Can I just plead guilty to drunk driving?

An arraignment is a hearing where the defendant can plead guilty or not guilty. You can plead guilty, but the real question is whether you should or not. It would be a mistake to plead guilty at this time, especially without the counsel of an OUI lawyer in Massachusetts, and there are multiple reasons for this, including:

  1. If you plead guilty immediately, you lose any opportunity to fight the OUI charge.
  2. If you plead guilty immediately, you also lose any opportunity for a plea deal that may prevent a criminal conviction on your record, if that is what would be best in your unique circumstances. Depending on your record, a plea deal may mean that although you would admit to the charges, you would not be found guilty, thus preventing a criminal conviction on your Massachusetts record. This process can render a much better outcome than simply pleading guilty.

Do I need a drunk driving lawyer in Massachusetts to win my OUI case?

It is in your best interest to have an attorney by your side to represent you. The law can be complex. The evidence can be highly technical and scientific. Police and state expert testimony can be damaging. All these things can lead to a conviction, unless you have the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully counter them. Most alleged OUI offenders do not have that kind of knowledge and skills.

Attorney Dunn knows OUI law and the technical, scientific make-up of field sobriety tests, blood tests, breath tests, and urine tests. We also know how to identify and proactively address any constitutional rights violations to benefit your case. Contact attorney James Dunn today at 617-504-4881 to get a free consultation and get honest advice on your best legal options.

What percent of your practice is OUI defense?

My practice is focused 100% on OUI defense. I do not dabble in other areas.

What does an OUI / DUI / DWI attorney cost?

You are entitled to know up front how much an OUI lawyer's legal services will cost. I always discuss fees openly with clients during the first phone call.

The fee is based on the number and seriousness of the charges and the court involved.

In a typical case, I charge FLAT FEES so you know your full legal cost UP FRONT. Plus, fees are payable in 2 stages: pretrial and trial. Only the pretrial fee is due in full before we go to court. After reading all our detailed reports, if you choose not to go to trial then you do not pay for trial. 

1) Pretrial

  • All pretrial court appearances, pretrial hearings and conferences
  • Research for legal defenses
  • Detailed written reports to you regarding your case
  • Negotiation with the DA's Office

2) Trial

  • Drafting and filing motions
  • Motion hearings at court
  • Full judge or jury trial

To make things easier for you, we offer PAYMENT PLANS and accept CREDIT and DEBIT CARDS.

What is your success rate at trial?

I have won over 75% of my trials and handled OUI cases in over 60 Massachusetts courts. You can see many case results here.

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Attorney James Dunn is an OUI / DUI lawyer who proudly and vigorously defends clients in OUI matters across Massachusetts

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