If you were arrested for a DUI, it is important to have a clear understanding of: (1) the potential penalties, (2) your rights, and (3) how to analyze your case so as to get the best result possible.
What are the consequences for a DUI?
In Massachusetts, the law against drunk driving is called “Operating Under the Influence,” or “OUI” and it is codified in Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 90, Section 24. The penalties for an OUI differ depending on whether the person has prior OUI convictions. It also depends on whether or not the person was over 21, and whether or not they agreed to take a breathalyzer test.
The potential penalties for a DUI or OUI are as follows. This information pertains to a person charged with their first OUI offense. The penalties for a first OUI offense range from a period of probation to a maximum jail sentence of up to 2 and-a-half years in the House of Correction. Many defendants, however, receive one or two years of probation. During the probation period, the person will be required to attend a 16-week alcohol education class which meets once per week for two hours each session. The person’s license will also be suspended for a period of time. The person will be required to pay fees and fines as well as the cost of the alcohol education class. With strong advocacy, a lawyer can convince a judge to waive all of the non-mandatory fees. There will also will be a surcharge on the person’s car insurance. Most employers are able to see if a person has an open case. However, once a case is closed, that person should move to have it sealed as soon as possible.
Can I get a "Continuation Without A Finding?"
A person charged with a first OUI offense in Massachusetts also has the option of a Continuation Without a Finding, often referred to as a “CWOF.” A continuation without a finding means that the case is continued for a period of time, usually one year, without a finding of “Guilty” entering on your record. A CWOF is not a conviction, and if the person completes all of the requirements imposed upon them by the court, then the case will be dismissed at the end of the time period. The person's car insurance will likely increase, and the person will face a license suspension, and fees and fines, all of which are similar to those imposed for a first offense guilty conviction. As with any dismissed case, you should move to have this case sealed once it is completed. For an analysis of your individual case, contact Attorney Lown.
What defenses do I have for a DUI?
One of the most important rights you have at trial is the right to cross examine the police officer. In many OUI cases, whether a person was driving under the influence is merely based on a police officer’s opinion. It is not illegal to have a drink and then drive a car. It is only illegal if a person drank to the point of “impairment,” meaning that they consumed so much alcohol that they had a “diminished capacity” to drive. Whether or not the person was impaired therefore depends upon the police officer’s testimony about what he or she observed. Powerful cross-examination can expose the police officer’s biased perspective. It can also highlight for the jury all of the indicators which demonstrate that the person was not impaired. Further, under our United States Constitution, a defendant is always presumed to be innocent. It is the government that has to prove its accusations beyond a reasonable doubt. Strong cross-examination undermines the government’s case, and it can result in a Not Guilty verdict.
"The officer tried to change his story to make our client look bad, but we had him on the stand and we had him read out loud to the jury from the transcript of his testimony at a prior hearing. The jury realized that he had previously said something different and was now just trying to bolster his accusations," Lown said.
Attorney Zachary Lown, Principal Attorney
Analyzing your case requires attention to detail. Some factors to look at include whether or not there was an accident, whether there are civilian witnesses (non-police officer witnesses), and whether or not the person took a breathalyzer test or performed Field Sobriety Tests, among many other factors. Some lawyers do fall into a trap of seeing every case as being similar to the last one. In reality, every case has its own special circumstances and must be analyzed on an individual basis.
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