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What Are Criminal Motor Vehicle Offenses in Massachusetts?

On Behalf of | Oct 21, 2021 | OUI

Woman in car looking at police lights in rear view mirror

All motor vehicle offenses in Massachusetts are considered to be either civil or criminal in nature. A civil offense is less serious and typically requires payment of a monetary fine. A criminal offense is more serious and conviction of many criminal offenses will result in a suspension of driving privileges. Retaining a criminal defense firm that understands motor vehicle offenses is key when you have been charged.

Common Massachusetts Criminal Motor Vehicle Offenses

There are a myriad of Massachusetts criminal motor vehicle offenses. However, some are more common than others, including:

Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs

Mass. General Laws c.90 §24 addresses operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (OUI).

  • A driver is considered “under the influence” if their ability to operate a vehicle is diminished by the consumption of intoxicating liquors, marijuana, narcotics, intoxicating vapors, or other drugs.
  • The legal limit for Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is .08%, which is considered to be a low threshold.

Penalties for Operating Under the Influence 

In Massachusetts, the penalties for OUI convictions include lengthy jail time, stiff fines, driver’s license suspension and probation. The potential penalties increase considerably depending on any prior offenses. Below is an example of the penalties for OUI:

First Offense Second Offense Third Offense
Jail Time Up to 2.5 years 60 days – 2.5 years 180 days -up to 5 years (state prison)
Potential Fines $500 – $5,000 $600 – $10,000 $1,000 – $15,000
License Suspension 1 year 2 years 8 years

Alternative Dispositions

For first and second offenses there are alternatives to the penalties listed above. Both alternatives involve changing your plea to a “Continuance Without a Finding (CWOF)” which will result in a dismissal of all charges, provided that you successfully comply with the terms of the agreement.

For a first time offense, this agreement is known as “24D Alternative Disposition” and its terms could include the following;

  • One year of probation
  • A driver alcohol education course
  • Drug and alcohol treatment
  • Suspended drivers license for 45 – 90 days
  • Up to 30 hours of community service

Second-time offenders are also eligible for alternative disposition agreements, known as “Cahill Disposition”. This alternative, however, has a very narrow application and it is not available if it has been less than 10 years since your first OUI offense.

The terms of either of these agreements are negotiated with the prosecution and vary greatly depending on the circumstances and whether or not the person charged has ever been convicted of OUI in the past. Generally speaking, Massachusetts takes OUI very seriously and the penalties are stiff.

Operating an Uninsured Motor Vehicle

All drivers in Massachusetts are required to carry a minimum amount of automobile insurance. In addition to losing the right to drive for 60 days, failure to maintain the required minimum amounts of insurance can result in being charged with a criminal motor vehicle offense. Penalties may include:

  • A fine ranging from $500 to $5,000; or
  • Imprisonment for no more than 1 year; or
  • A combination of the fine and imprisonment

The minimum amounts of insurance required to be carried in Massachusetts are:

  • Bodily Injury Liability limits of at $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident
  • Property Damage Liability coverage of at least $5,000
  • Bodily Injury Caused by Uninsured Auto of at least $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident
  • Personal Injury Protection of at least $8,000

Leaving the Scene of an Accident

Drivers in Massachusetts are required by law to stop when they are involved in a motor vehicle accident. They are also required to show requested documentation, such as their driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance, to any responding officer or any other party that sustained property damage. Penalties for leaving the scene of an accident vary depending on whether or not the defendant has any prior convictions as well as the amount of damage, both to physical persons and property, they caused.

Operation After Suspended or Revoked License

When a Massachusetts driver has their license suspended or revoked, and they continue to operate a motor vehicle, they face being charged with a motor vehicle offense. The penalties are wide-ranging depending on whether or not they have any prior convictions.

Consult With A Criminal Defense Attorney at Maceolaw, P.C.

Charged with a criminal motor vehicle offense? Speak with an experienced attorney that understands the ins-and-outs of Massachusetts law. You may contact our firm by calling 617-208-0505 or via our contact page to schedule a consultation. With a focus on criminal defense, our firm is able to provide the astute representation you need.