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OUI in Middlesex County

Under Massachusetts Law, Operating under the influence (OUI) is an offense for driving under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances. Middlesex County adopts Massachusetts laws in defining and punishing the offense.

According to The Massachusetts Prosecutors’ Manua, a police officer may arrest an individual for operating a motor vehicle as defined by G.L.c. 90, § 1 and have blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of .08%.

Previously, the BAC limit in Massachusetts was .10%. However, the Massachusetts Legislature amended G.L.c.90, § 24, reducing the allowed limit to .08%. The G.L.c.90, § 24 states that an OUI conviction is punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

Notably, the minimum BAC limit for anyone with a commercial driver’s license and operating a commercial vehicle is .04%. Also, the BAC limit for drivers below 21 is .02%.

DUI vs. DWI in Middlesex County

Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), and Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) are terms adopted by different states to describe the offense of driving while impaired, depending on their state or county laws. In Middlesex, however, the offense is referred to as OUI, as legislated by Massachusetts state.

What Happens When you Get an OUI in Middlesex County?

Getting an OUI in Middlesex County may have serious consequences.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) trains police officers to recognize impairment from alcohol or other drugs. Officers follow the DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Manual when investigating an OUI. The investigation is in three phases:

  • Phase 1. Vehicle In Motion- The officer observes the suspect’s driving. An individual under the influence of drugs or any other intoxicants may be driving above the speed limit, weaving, or swerving. The manual highlighted four categories of 20 cues that can be evident in drunk driving.
  • Phase 2. Personal Contact- The police officer is required to examine the suspect’s outward appearance closely. The officer looks out for signs that indicate impairment in the suspect’s speech, attitude, or behavior.
  • Phase 3. Pre-Arrest Screening- The officer may use law enforcement tools to confirm their suspicion of an OUI.

The police officer may utilize different measures to determine if the subject is impaired by alcohol or drugs. Examples are breathalyzer, blood tests, and Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs).

Field sobriety tests are scientifically validated tests adopted to assess the driver’s impairment by observing the response to specific instructions. A 1975research highlighted the three most reliable tests for identifying impaired drivers with a BAC of 0.10%. When subsequent research reduced the BAC limit to .08%, the tests noted in the 1975 research remained valid.

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)- The HGN test is considered the most reliable of all the field sobriety tests, according to the Massachusetts Prosecutors’ Manual. The continuous involuntary movement of the eyes suggests that the subject’s central nervous system is being disrupted.
  • Walk and Turn- The test is administered in two stages- Instruction and Walking. First, the officer gives some instructions to the suspect, and the subject is required to comply. The second stage is Walking. The officer observes the subject to analyze balance, short-term memory, and small muscle control.

While administering tests, police officers watch out for eight cues that may confirm the suspicion of OUI:

  1. The subject’s inability to maintain a balance
  2. The subject’s response time from when instructed
  3. If the subject stops while walking
  4. If the subject unable to touch heel to toe
  5. If suspect steps out of line during tests
  6. If suspect uses arms for balance
  7. Improper turning
  8. A miscalculation in the number of steps

Research has revealed that 68% of the time, drivers who show at least two of the above cues have a minimum BAC of .10%

  • One-Leg Stand- The suspects are usually required to stand with their feet together and their arms by the sides while they listen to the officer’s instructions. The police officer then asks suspects to raise either their right or left foot about six inches above the ground. The officer asks the suspect to count with arms on the sides and eyes on the raised foot. Although the exercise is a 30-second exercise, suspects may only stop on the officer’s instructions.

During the test, the officer looks out for four cues:

  1. Inability to stand firm
  2. Using the arms for balance
  3. Hopping
  4. Failure to hold the elevated foot up for the required period

The Massachusetts Prosecutors Manual states that 65% of subjects who show at least two of those cues have a BAC of over.10%.

Other non-standardized tests used by officers to examine a suspect’s sobriety are:

  • Alphabet test- The officer may ask the subject to recite the English alphabet from A-Z
  • Finger count- an Officer, asks subject to count each finger simultaneously, using the thumb. The subject counts from 1 to 5 and then count in reverse from 5
  • Finger-to-nose test- Subject is asked to touch the tip of their nose with their forefinger.
  • Romberg test- The subject stands straight, placing the feet together, hands by the sides, and eyes closed for about 30 seconds

What is the OUI Process in Middlesex County?

A driver charged with an OUI is required to appear before the Middlesex County Superior Court. The legal process for an OUI charge include:

  • Arraignment- the defendant is required to appear in court on a given date for arraignment. During the arraignment, the court formally reads the charges to the offender and asks them to enter a guilty or not guilty plea. The court may then consider a bail application to release the offender on bail or otherwise. First or second-time OUI offenders are more likely to be granted bail.
  • Pretrial conference- The court holds the pre-trial conference to ensure that an OUI defendant in Middlesex has the details of the case. The conference is usually within 4-6 weeks from arraignment. The number of pre-trial hearings or conferences is determined by the district attorney’s office.
  • Motion Hearing- the defendant may raise a motion to nullify the prosecution’s evidence on the grounds that the driver’s constitutional rights were violated under the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights- Article 14. If the motion is successful, the court will dismiss the case.

The defendant may also raise a motion to counter statements obtained by the police without warning of self-incrimination based on the isolation of the defendant’s Miranda Rights. Using Miranda Rights as a defense does not usually lead to the dismissal of a case but the motion helps to build a strong defense, if successful.

  • Trial- The defendant appears before a judge or a jury on the day of trial. The court hears both the prosecution and the defense and comes to a verdict. The Judge pronounces the sentences in line with the applicable law if the defendant is found guilty.

How to Beat an OUI in Middlesex County

When charged with an OUI offense in Middlesex, the Massachusetts law permits offenders to represent themselves in court. It may, however, be advisable to hire an attorney with expertise and experience in defending OUI cases. An OUI case is a severe crime. An attorney may be able to build a strong defense on the defendant’s behalf or reduce their legal liability, especially if

What are the Defenses for an OUI in Middlesex County?

The Massachusetts Prosecutors’ Manual provides common defenses to an OUI case in Middlesex, including

  • Diabetes- Claiming to be diabetic is a common defense in OUI cases. A Type 1 diabetes patient is prone to hypoglycemia/insulin reaction. The symptoms are similar to being under the influence of alcohol, such as uncoordinated body movements, confusion, garbled or slow speech, or alcohol-like breath (acetone).
  • Fatigue- The defendant may claim to be tired and not acting under the influence of alcohol at the time of the arrest.
  • Nervousness- The defendant may blame nervousness for slurred speech, disorganization, and failure of the field sobriety tests.
  • Medication- Defendants may argue to be drowsy due to prescribed medication by the doctor.
  • Medical factors- The dependent may claim other medical conditions to counter the OUI charges. An offender may claim leg injuries or foot problems as a reason for failing field sobriety tests. A defendant may claim to naturally have Nystagmus.

What are the Penalties for an OUI in Middlesex County?

Melanie’s Law initiated the Commonwealth’s Ignition Interlock Device (IID) Program under G.L.c.90 § 24-1/2. The IID program requires multiple OUI offenders with two or more convictions to install an IID in their vehicle over a specified period.

The cell phone-like device is connected to the vehicle’s ignition. It performs a breath-alcohol test before a driver can start the ignition and also takes tests while the driver is operating the vehicle.

The Massachusetts Drivers’ Manual, provides the penalties for a first offense up to a fifth offense.

First Offense OUI in Middlesex County

OUI first offense is considered a misdemeanor and punishable by:

  • A fine of at least $500 and up to $5,000
  • A maximum prison sentence of 2 and a half years
  • License suspension of a year or less than if the court permits the offender to complete an alcohol education course.

The alcohol education program, also referred to as “24D,” costs about $600. The program is 40-hour long and lasts for 16 weeks. Also, the offender must ensure that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health approves the program before commencing the class.

Second Offense OUI in Middlesex County

A second offense OUI in Middlesex County is also considered a misdemeanor and punishable by:

  • A fine of $600 to $10,000
  • A prison sentence of at least 30 days and up to two and a half years
  • License suspension of two years

Third Offense OUI in Middlesex County

A third and subsequent OUIs are considered a felony. A third OUI is punishable by:

  • A minimum fine of $1,000 and a maximum of $15,000
  • A minimum prison term of 150 days and up to five years
  • Suspension of driver’s license for eight years

Fourth Offense OUI in Middlesex County

The penalties for a fourth offense include:

  • A minimum fine of $1,500 and a maximum of $25,000
  • Minimum prison term of one year and up to five years
  • Ten years of license suspension

Fifth Offense OUI in Middlesex County

A fifth-time OUI offender is punishable by:

  • A lifetime suspension of driver’s license
  • A fine of between $2,000 and $50,000
  • A two-year minimum prison term and a maximum of five years.

Other Punishments

Driving without insurance in Middlesex County is illegal under Massachusetts state law. However, an OUI conviction can raise a driver’s insurance premium significantly. The Merit Rating Board in Massachusetts manages insurance credit scores that notify the company of the driver's level of risk. Also, every insurance company has its policies and laws. An insurance company may decide to cancel the issuance agreement with an OUI offender. However, the insured has the right to 20-day prior notice before issuance cancellation.

Furthermore, police officers are not exempted from the punishments of an OUI offender, if found guilty. An OUI charge may affect a guilty officer's employment, especially if on duty at the time of the offense. The convicted officer may be dismissed following a thorough internal investigation.

An OUI offense stays on the accused record permanently. The record may also intensify penalties in case of future convictions.