Recidivism is a serious issue in the criminal justice system in the United States, likely in part because the focus is often on punishing individuals rather than rehabilitating them. Those accused of the same or similar charges multiple times in succession will face increasing penalties.

For those accused of impaired driving in Massachusetts, those increasing penalties mean that second and third impaired-driving arrest carry much more substantial penalties.

How Massachusetts penalizes impaired driving offenses

Massachusetts refers to impaired driving offenses as operating under the influence (OUI). A first OUI charge for someone old enough to legally drink could result in up to two-and-a-half years in jail and fines of at least $500, although the judge has discretion in what penalties apply. A conviction will also carry the loss of your license for at least a year, and you will have to serve three months of that suspension before you can receive a hardship license.

A second charge carries a 30-day mandatory jail sentence and as much as two and a half years in jail, followed by a two-year license suspension and a requirement to install an ignition interlock device after that. For those who get charged a third time with an OUI offense, there is a 150 day minimum of incarceration that could lead to up to five years in prison, as the charge will be a felony offense. The fine will increase to $1,000 but could be as high as $15,000. A third offense also means losing your license for eight years.

A fourth offense means a mandatory year in jail, even higher fines, 10 years without a license and a requirement to forfeit your vehicle to the government without any sort of payment.

You can defend against an OUI

People sometimes plead guilty to OUI charges even when they know that the breath test was wrong because they mistakenly believe it’s impossible to defend against drunk driving charges. Depending on the circumstances that led to your charges and other factors, there may be a number of different ways for you to fight those charges and avoid a conviction with all of the consequences it might bring.