Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law in all 50 states. Due to the extreme dangers associated with driving while impaired, Massachusetts penalizes this crime – referred to as OUI or operating under the influence in Massachusetts – severely. This is especially true when a drunk or intoxicated driver causes a car accident. The more damage the intoxicated driver inflicts, the greater the penalties. Here’s what to expect if you get into an accident while driving under the influence.
The law enforcement officer who responds to the 911 call will place you under arrest if there is probable cause to believe that you were driving under the influence. Typically, the police officer will ask you questions and check for visible signs of driver intoxication, such as the smell of liquor, alcohol containers or drug paraphernalia in your vehicle, slurred speech, and bloodshot eyes.
If there are signs of intoxication, the officer will ask you to take a breathalyzer test. If you breathe a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 percent or higher (or 0.04 percent as a commercial driver), you will be placed under arrest for operating under the influence. The officer may also arrest you after conducting a field sobriety test, although you have the right to refuse this type of test in Massachusetts.
Upon your arrest for a suspected OUI, you will be taken to the nearest police precinct and booked, meaning they will take your mugshots and fingerprints. Then, you will have the opportunity to make one phone call. Use it to contact an OUI defense lawyer immediately. The police cannot monitor a phone call made to an attorney. You will have to spend at least one night in jail after being arrested for driving under the influence.
After your mandatory night in jail, you will typically be released prior to your arraignment hearing. This is the first criminal hearing, where you must appear to receive the charges that are being brought against you and submit your plea (often with help from an attorney). If you caused a car accident while driving under the influence, you will face aggravated OUI charges under Commonwealth law.
An aggravated OUI is a more serious offense, where the incident has aggravating factors that make the crime more harmful to the public. Examples include if a drunk driver’s BAC was at or above 0.20 percent, if the driver had a child under the age of 15 in the vehicle at the time of the OUI arrest, or if the driver caused physical injuries or property damage while operating under the influence.
Aggravated OUI/DUI crimes in Massachusetts come with more severe penalties than a standard OUI offense. The courts punish drivers more severely if they cause an accident, bodily injuries or death while under the influence. An aggravated OUI is a felony crime in Massachusetts that can result in penalties such as:
The sentence for causing a car accident while under the influence will depend on the severity of injuries suffered by victims, whether or not this is your first OUI conviction, and several other factors. It is extremely important to hire a criminal defense attorney immediately after getting into an accident while under the influence. An attorney will give you the best odds of avoiding the worst possible consequences of this offense.