Massachusetts has a reputation for being progressive in many ways, but when it comes to state drunk driving laws, the Bay State ranks surprisingly low.
That’s the view, at least, of one major organization that focuses on eliminating drunk driving. Their metrics find that Massachusetts is especially weak when it comes to ignition interlock laws and the ability of suspected drunk drivers to refuse sobriety tests.
The state isn’t where it should be on two other measures, and it gets high marks only for its frequent and high-profile use of sobriety checkpoints.
In its 2018 Report to the Nation, the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving compared the states (and DC) on five benchmarks: ignition interlocks (to prevent convicted drunk drivers from reoffending), sobriety checkpoints, administrative license revocation (between DUI arrest and conviction), child endangerment (treatment of drunk drivers with children in their vehicles), and refusals (punishment for drivers who refuse to take sobriety tests).
Massachusetts scored a two out of a possible five, putting it in thirty-seventh place. Looking at the numbers, it’s more accurate to say that the state fared even worse, since it was tied in the ranking with several other states: Only seven states scored worse. The only state near us to rate as bad or worse was Rhode Island, which received a 1.5. No state received a perfect score, but five came close with a 4.5.
Many people still use the term DWI in Massachusetts, but the legally correct label is OUI (operating under the influence). We use the 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC) standard in place nationwide to determine per se OUI—if a driver has crossed that threshold, he or she is automatically considered OUI (and can even be convicted for a lesser amount). There’s a stricter 0.02 percent BAC standard for drivers under twenty-one years of age.
License suspensions are given for a first offense, and interlocks issued for repeat offenders. There are increasing fines for OUI convictions, which can be as high as $5,000 for a first offense, as well as the possibility of prison time (as much as 2.5 years for a first offense).
Refusing a sobriety test brings an automatic suspension (MADD prefers harsher penalties), while having a child in the vehicle at the time of an offense brings additional suspension time (MADD prefers felony charges).
Of course, causing damage or injury while drunk brings additional charges and penalties, with a sentence of up to twenty years in prison possible for those who cause another’s death.
When you’ve been the victim of a motor vehicle crash, it’s important to discuss your situation with an attorney who understands the law. The Massachusetts no-fault insurance system provides for some benefits automatically, but in many cases, including those involving a drunk driver, there are additional actions that must be pursued for full compensation.
Joel H. Schwartz, PC has experience with all forms of motor vehicle accident cases, including DWI accident law. We offer all clients a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss their case, so you have nothing to lose. Call us at 1-800-660-2270 or contact us online through the form below to learn more.