Mistakes happen. Perhaps a drink at a bar was stronger than anticipated. Perhaps a new medication unexpectedly reduced one’s tolerance. Now, consequences may be much worse than a ticket.

This article will review the possible charges you may face if someone is killed or injured as a result of an accident that occurred while you were under the influence of alcohol or another drug.

How Massachusetts Defines Plain OUI

While the safest choice is to never drive after drinking, Massachusetts does not require drivers to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of zero in order to operate a motor vehicle. The legal limit for operating under the influence (OUI) in Massachusetts is .08% for most drivers. For those under 21, the limit is .02%. For those on probation, .01% is the level at which legal trouble can begin. Higher penalties may apply if you are found to have a BAC of .15% or higher.

There is no BAC-type metric for measuring intoxication from marijuana or other drugs, and so the safest choice remains not to drive while under the influence at all.

There are escalating charges for driving under the influence which result in more and more severe fines, jail time, and reeducation. Generally, the first or second OUI incidents are misdemeanors if no one was hurt, while the third and subsequent incidents are felonies.

However, if someone is injured or killed as the result of operating under the influence, the charge is upgraded to a felony, even for a first offense.

Penalties for Death or Injury Caused by OUI Accidents

If someone dies as a result of your operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, you may be charged with “manslaughter while operating a motor vehicle.” The penalties for this may include:

  • 5-20 years in prison, with 5 as a mandatory minimum
  • A fine up to $25,000
  • Suspension of your driver’s license from 15 years to life

Another charge that can result from an OUI death is “homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence.” A driver can be charged both with this crime and OUI manslaughter simultaneously. The penalties for homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence are less severe than those for OUI manslaughter:

  • 2.5 to 15 years in prison
  • A fine up to $5,000
  • Loss of driver’s license for 15 years

Charges can also arise if someone suffers a serious bodily injury as a result of drunk driving. Massachusetts defines as ‘serious’ injury as loss of a limb, substantial and lasting impairment, total disability, and/or substantial risk of death. The penalties for this include:

  • 2.5 to 10 years in prison, though it is possible to serve only a six-month minimum
  • A fine of at least $3,000
  • Loss of driver’s license for two years

When Facing Serious OUI Charges, You Need A Serious Defense

In the face of substantial jail time, financial penalties, and hardship caused by long-term loss of one’s driver license, you need a defense that can rise to the occasion. I have over 30 years of experience in defending client against OUI charges. Don’t delay your defense; call me today at (508) 752-2727 to discuss your situation.