What is Massachusetts General Law Chapter 123, Section 35?

The Section 35 law states that you can ask for a court order that will require someone to be civilly entered and treated unwillingly for abuse of substances or alcohol. To be committed under Section 35, the court must determine the following:

  • The abuse of alcohol or substances is affecting the person’s health is a significant way.
  • The person is unable to work or socialize.
  • The person is unable to stop themselves from abusing alcohol or substances.

The following are people that can appeal to the court to request a Section 35 civil commitment on another person:

  • Spouse
  • Family member
  • Guardian
  • Officer of the court
  • Police officer
  • Doctor

How Does The Process Work?

To start the process of a civil commitment under Section 35, you must go to a district or juvenile court. When the court obtains the petition, the person in question will receive a summons. This summons states that they will have to attend court with a judge, with the right of an attorney. If they are unable to afford an attorney, there will be one appointed to them by the court. Judging by the testimony, the court will conclude whether they should involuntarily commit the person. The main factor of the testimony will be the person’s medical diagnosis. There will be an assessment of their physical and mental health by a practiced psychologist, doctor or social worker. If the attorney chooses to, they can bring testimonies from family, employers, friends or others involved. To be committed, there must be a possibility of sever physical danger connected to the substance or alcohol the person is using.

What Happens if the Person is Civilly Committed?

If the person is committed, they might be ordered to attend treatment for up to 90 days. They can only be committed to an inpatient substance abuse center that is licensed to treat. The following are centers that you can be committed to:

  • Men’s Addiction Treatment Center
  • Women’s Addition Treatment Center

If these centers are unable to receive more patients, if male, they can be committed to Bridgewater State Hospital or Framingham Correctional Institution if they are female. To begin treatment, they will be evaluated to see their need for rehab. The person will then begin to learn information on addiction, staying sober and how they can avoid relapsing. It is encouraged that people seek aftercare services and care.

Are There Other Rights Under Section 35?

As long as the commitment continues, on days 30, 45, 60 and 75 will be reviewed by the center’s superintendent. To be released early, the center superintendent must say in writing that the person will not cause any severe harm to themselves. Once released, the person can decide to stay at the center or seek additional treatment. Once committed, there should be a customized treatment plan, with four hours of treatment/day, for each person. Physical restraint and any types of searches are banned.

Posted in FAQ

What Happens If I Have Multiple OUIs?

If you find yourself being prosecuted for an additional OUI offense, you can expect the outcome from Massachusetts law to be severe. Melanie’s Law was passed in 2005 to increase the sanctions and consequences for OUI offenders with earlier convictions. Melanie’s Law created the new offense of “Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol while Operating after Suspension for Drunk Driving”. If you have a previous OUI conviction and are convicted of another OUI, you have the potential to be charged with two crimes at once: OUI and OUI with suspended license.

Each DUI conviction will create a stricter penalty for the offender. Depending on the number of convictions you have will determine the punishment.

Second Offense

  • Up to $10,000 fine.
  • Sentence in jail for 60 days minimum and up to 2 ½
  • Suspension of license for 2 years. After 18 months, you can be considered for a general hardship license with the installation of an ignition interlock device.

Third Offense (felony)

  • Up to $15,000 fine.
  • Sentence in jail for 180 days mandatory minimum (150 to be served) and up to 2 ½ years, or State Prison time if indicted.
  • Suspension of license for 8 years. After 4 years, you can be considered for a general hardship license with the installation of an ignition interlock device.

Fourth Offense (felony)

  • $25,000 fine.
  • Based on the District Attorney’s preference, jail sentence of one of the following:
    • 2 years minimum mandatory in house of correction (District Court)
    • Potential of up to 5 years in State Prison, if case is indicted into Superior Court
    • Suspension of license for 10 years. After 8 years, you can be considered for a general hardship license with the installation of an ignition interlock device.

Fifth+ Offense (felony)

  • $50,000 fine.
  • Sentence of 2.5 years minimum mandatory in house of correction or 5 years in State Prison.
  • Lifetime suspension of license with no opportunity for a hardship license.

If you or someone you know has been convicted of operating under the influence, contact Attorney Seed for the support of a qualified Boston and New Bedford, MA OUI lawyer. Attorney Seed will examine every part of your case to create a full defense approach. Contact Attorney Seed at (508) 999-1399 or by filling out our contact form for a free evaluation today.

Posted in FAQ

OUI Breath-Test Evidence Questions

Many questions are being raised about OUI breath-test evidence causing defense attorneys to examine their OUI cases. While the state reviews the breath analysis machines, prosecutors are suspending the use of evidence from police.

It may only be a small amount of readings, but the Massachusetts Bar Association is calling for an independent assessment of the dependability of the tests. Depending on the results, people could look into dismissals or even new trials.

Attorneys across the state are going through OUI cases to see which clients will be affected. They are either pursuing continuances of OUI cases or not using breath test evidence until the problem is fixed.

If you or someone you know has been convicted of or negotiated a plea agreement in MA for an OUI over the last two years based on a breath test result, you may have options in revisiting the matter. Feel free to contact me at 978.352.0384 or my partner Jason Chan at 781.343.1384 to explore your options.

What are the Guidelines for a Checkpoint?

Generally, police obtain the right to probable cause when a motorist commits a traffic violation, is potentially intoxicated at the wheel, or receives a tip that the motorist may be drunk at the wheel. The reason for these sobriety checkpoints according to the Supreme Court is to ensure the safety and security of every driver on the road. They believe this is the best and most efficient way to limit the potential for drunk driving that may result in a fatality of the driver and/or the general public.

Here are the guidelines set forth to ensure the constitutionality of the checkpoints:

  • The observation of the driver must be minimal so that the motorist does not feel he or she is being singled out.
  • The officer has a reasonable suspicion that the operating driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or contraband is in plain view.
  • If this is the case, the driver will be directed to a secondary screening.
  • During the secondary screening, the driver will be asked to drive onto the shoulder of the road, provide license & registration & might be asked to execute field sobriety tests.
  • Depending on the results of the field sobriety tests, this could lead to an arrest.

Contact Attorney John Seed at 978-352-0384 for questions on the laws pertaining to OUI/DUIs.