In Massachusetts, drunk driving is a serious offense that can bring harsh penalties. Basic knowledge of OUI (which is short for operating under the influence) law is important for drivers who enjoy adult beverages so they can avoid criminal charges and other consequences.
In every U.S. state, it is against the law to drive if you are intoxicated. Because alcohol and other impairing substances affect different people in different ways, you can't assume that you will be fine because you had the same amount as a friend who seems to be fine. You need to know your own limits and manage your consumption carefully every time you intend to drive a motor vehicle.
In Massachusetts, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers 21 or over is .08 percent. Younger drivers have a limit of only .02 percent, which some call a "zero tolerance" level. Another important BAC level to know about is .20 percent; if you arrested at or above that elevated BAC level, you will likely face an enhanced penalty due to an aggravated charge.
If you are convicted of OUI, you face the possibility of losing your license for a year on a first offense. This can go up to two or eight years on second and third offenses, respectively. You might also have to go through mandatory alcohol education assessment and treatment. And it is possible that you will be required to install and use an ignition interlock device or that your vehicle may be confiscated.
You also need to remember that Massachusetts has implied consent laws. This means that you can face significant penalties if you refuse to take a breath or blood test when an officer asks you to take one. You do have the right to refuse, but generally that will lead to trouble.
Factors that impact BAC
Many factors can influence how alcohol affects you. For example, a woman might have a higher BAC than a man after consuming the same amount of alcohol. Body weight affects BAC. You might be more impaired if you haven't eaten or if you are dehydrated. Genetics and your acquired tolerance for alcohol can also play a part in your BAC.
If you are facing an OUI charge, make sure you learn about your options and get your questions answered. Understand the potential administrative penalties as well as the criminal penalties as you develop your defense strategy.