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A first-time DUI/OUI offense: Understand your charges

When it comes to drunk driving in Massachusetts, penalties vary by the offense and the number of times you've committed an offense. Importantly, a first-offense DUI has different penalties than a second-offense DUI.

If you're accused of a DUI, you need to know exactly which charges you face and the penalties that could apply. Do you face enhanced charges? Was there property damage or injuries? Were you under the legal alcohol limit and therefore facing lesser charges for reckless behavior?

Why charges matter

A first-time DUI may not seem serious, but it can have a significant impact on your life. You could face fines, time in jail (up to a year) and other penalties.

Enhanced penalties start at a blood alcohol concentration of 0.20 percent. At this level, you could face vehicle confiscation, required alcohol education, assessment or treatment, and higher fines.

Zero tolerance and your DUI

If you're under 21, the laws are harsh if you choose to get behind the wheel after drinking. Drinking isn't always illegal when you're under 21, but driving with alcohol in your system is. The zero-tolerance limit in Massachusetts is 0.02 percent, which is far lower than the usual adult limit of .08 percent. If you blow a breath test over 0.02 percent, you could face penalties like losing your license, going to alcohol education classes or others.

Aside from the potential for penalties applied by the law, you could face struggles in your everyday life. The difficulties could range from losing a few days of work to losing scholarships or your job.

It's a good idea to work with someone who can help you defend yourself after a DUI. The penalties are harsh, and the social and career repercussions can continue to affect you for years to come. A single error could end up harming many parts of your life if you don't defend yourself carefully.

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