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What Is a “Per Se” DUI?

Posted on December 4, 2023 in

If you get arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) or operating under the influence (OUI), as it is called in Massachusetts, it is important to understand whether it is a standard or “per se” DUI. This distinction will determine the evidence that must be put forth by the prosecution to achieve a conviction. Individuals facing a DUI per se charge can benefit from hiring an experienced Concord criminal defense lawyer.

What Does Per Se Mean in a DUI/OUI Case?

“Per se” is Latin for “by itself, “in itself” or “of itself.” In legalese, per se means that someone is intrinsically guilty of a crime or guilty by the very nature of the offense committed. In general, proving grounds for a per se charge is enough to lead to a criminal conviction without requiring further evidence that a crime was committed.

A DUI per se case in Massachusetts can arise if a suspect registers a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level at or above the legal limit. In Massachusetts, the limit is 0.08 percent for a standard driver and 0.04 percent for a commercial driver. If a breathalyzer test conducted during the traffic stop or within two hours of the driver operating a motor vehicle shows a BAC at or above the legal limit, it is known as a per se DUI.

A per se DUI typically does not require any additional evidence to prove that a driver was breaking the law other than a BAC at or above 0.08. If the legal limit was not exceeded, however, the prosecution will need other types of evidence to prove that the driver was impaired, such as a failed field sobriety test, witness statements or police officer testimony.

Is it Possible to Fight a Per Se DUI Charge?

While a per se DUI may seem clear-cut and difficult to argue against, it is possible to fight this type of charge in Massachusetts. An experienced OUI defense attorney in Concord will search for holes in the prosecutor’s case against you and use the law in your favor to argue for a positive case outcome. Depending on the circumstances, this could mean case dismissal, acquittal, an alternative sentence or reduced penalties.

Potential defenses to fight a per se DUI may include:

  • Illegally obtained evidence. If the police officer who arrested you obtained evidence illegally, such as with an unlawful search and seizure or no probable cause to stop your car, this evidence could be ruled inadmissible, meaning it cannot be used against you in court.
  • Inaccurate BAC test results. Your lawyer may be able to challenge the accuracy of the BAC results used in your case. For instance, there may be evidence demonstrating that the breathalyzer was improperly maintained, misadjusted or used incorrectly by the officer.
  • Insufficient evidence. The burden of proof in an OUI case has the highest evidentiary standard in law: proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution does not have enough evidence to prove that you were driving under the influence beyond a reasonable doubt, the case against you may be dismissed.

If you have been arrested and charged with a per se DUI in Massachusetts, hiring a qualified defense attorney is your best chance of fighting back. The right criminal defense lawyer will craft a unique defense strategy tailored to your situation after analyzing the evidence against you and your criminal history. For more information about this type of case, contact Spring & Spring for a free and confidential case consultation.