Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious criminal offense in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth’s OUI law authorizes serious penalties even for first-time offenders, including probation, fines, the installation of an ignition interlock device, and even jail time. In cases where there exist aggravating factors, however, the penalties can be significantly increased.
Aggravating factors are circumstances that, when they exist, the law recognizes as making an offense particularly serious. The offense remains the same as it would be without the presence of aggravating factors, but the penalties that are available are often significantly increased. The following are some examples of common aggravating circumstances in a case involving drunk or drugged driving.
Driving with a child in the car
Massachusetts’ so-called “Melanie’s Law,” passed in 2005, created new offenses related to drunk driving. One of these related to drunk driving with a child 14 years of age or younger in the car. Under the law, a person caught driving drunk with a child 14 or under in the car can be accused of two separate offenses: OUI, and child endangerment OUI. People who are convicted of a 1st first-time violation of this law can be sentenced to between 90 and 2 and a half years of imprisonment and a fine of from $1,000 to $5,000.
Causing serious bodily injury
Another way in which a “simple” OUI case can become significantly more serious is if a drunk driver is involved in an accident that causes serious bodily injury. Depending on the circumstances, MGL c. 90 s. 24L authorizes up to 10 years in jail, fines of up to $5,000, and a mandatory 2-year loss of your driver’s license.
These are just two of the more serious kinds of aggravating factors that may enhance the potential legal penalties associated with a Massachusetts DUI case. Other include excessive speeding, driving with a license that has been suspended or revoked, fleeing from law enforcement, prior DUI convictions, operating a commercial vehicle while intoxicated, being under 21, driving drunk in a school zone, and causing property damage. When these factors are present, it is extremely important for OUI defendants to retain legal counsel. It is important to be aware of the fact that judges have significant discretion in terms of determining a sentence, so do not assume that you will receive the minimum sentence simply because it is a first-time offense. An attorney can often help ensure that your case is resolved as favorably as possible, so it is important to retain a lawyer as soon as possible after you are accused of drunk driving.
Contact a Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation
An OUI conviction can have a significant impact on your quality of life, particularly if there were certain aggravating factors present. In many instances, serious drunk driving cases can involve significant legal consequences, potentially including mandatory incarceration in a correctional facility. People accused of offenses involving drunk driving should always retain legal counsel in order to ensure that their legal rights are protected. To schedule a free consultation with Boston criminal defense attorney Edward R. Molari, call our office today at 617-942-1532.