In Massachusetts, drunk driving penalties can be serious. In 2005, a law known as Melanie’s Law increased the sanctions that people could experience if they are convicted of operating under the influence, or OUI. While drunk driving charges are the most common cause of an OUI conviction, there are other circumstances that can apply as well. If a person has a BAC level lower than .08, the legal limit, but police accuse them of also being under the influence of drugs, they could be charged. They could also be charged for “drugged driving,” a citation that is becoming more common after the decriminalization and then legalization of cannabis.

Commercial drivers and minors below 21, the legal drinking age, also face far stricter OUI guidelines. Commercial drivers can be convicted of drunk driving with a BAC of .04 or higher while minors can face an OUI charge for driving with a BAC of .02 or higher. While many drivers are accused of using illegal drugs, the charge can also apply to cannabis users or even people using prescribed medication. This is true even if there is little evidence of the amount of a drug needed to affect a person’s driving behavior.

People convicted of OUI will receive a driver’s license suspension for at least one year. Those who refuse to take a breath or blood test will also have their license suspended for at least 180 days. In addition, those convicted may face hefty fines of up to $5,000 and jail time with more serious penalties for those with prior convictions or a higher BAC.

The serious consequences associated with a drunk driving conviction can be life-changing. People accused of OUI in Massachusetts may want to work with a criminal defense attorney to challenge police evidence and procedures and aim to avoid a conviction.