When an officer pulls you over for suspicion of DUI, or OUI – operating under the influence, as it’s known in Massachusetts, you will be asked to submit to a series of tests. Initially, an officer may talk with you and ask you questions in an attempt to determine whether you are driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He or she may then ask that you exit your vehicle to undergo roadside testing, or field sobriety tests. Finally, you may be requested to submit to a blood or urine test, or breathalyzer, known as a chemical test. Many, at this time, are scared and intimidated and unsure of what to do. You may have even made the decision to refuse the breathalyzer. If so, you are likely wondering what’s next.
Severe Consequences for Breathalyzer Refusals in Massachusetts
Every state in the United States has what are known as Implied Consent laws. These laws basically provide that when you apply for a driver’s license in the state, you consent to chemical testing, including a breathalyzer, in the event an officer believes you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Because you have provided this implied consent, you can suffer consequences as a result of any subsequent refusals.
Breathalyzer Refusal Penalties Depend on How Many OUI Convictions You’ve Had
In any OUI case, you face criminal as well as administrative penalties. Criminal penalties are enforced by the court through the criminal justice system. Administrative penalties are additional penalties and are enforced by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). Penalties for breath test refusals fall under the purview of the RMV and, as with OUI criminal penalties, the punishments for breathalyzer refusals become harsher as the number of OUI convictions increase. Punishments for a refusal can include:
- 1st offense – 180-day license suspension
- 2nd offense – three-year license suspension
- 3rd offense – five-year license suspension
- 4th or more offense – lifetime suspension
It’s important to note that many defendants opt for a 24D disposition for a first-time OUI offense in Massachusetts. If they successfully complete the probationary period, their case is dismissed, and for all intent and purposes, the OUI offense is dismissed. However, if a defendant who managed to keep their record clean pursuant to a 24D disposition and they refuse a breathalyzer test, the OUI is treated as a second OUI offense.
Fighting The OUI Refusal Penalties
In order to fight the penalties associated with a breathalyzer refusal, you must request a hearing within fifteen days of the loss of your license. Remember this hearing is different and apart from any criminal OUI proceedings. You may only challenge the license suspension for a breath test refusal based on three grounds:
- Whether the officer had reasonable grounds to believe you were driving under the influence.
- Whether you were placed under arrest.
- Whether you refused the chemical test.
Contacting an OUI attorney to defend you at this hearing is very important and may help to avoid a restriction on your driving privileges and freedom.
The Lawyers at OUI Attorneys Can Help Protect Your Rights
If you’ve been wrongly accused, you have a valid legal defense, or you are eligible for an alternative disposition of your OUI case, an attorney can help defend your rights and negotiate on your behalf. Call one of our network lawyers to schedule a free initial consultation and to discuss the facts of your case.