Operating Under the Influence, or OUI is the crime commonly known as drunk driving. Sometimes called DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) or DUI (Driving Under the Influence) in other states, these are all the same crime. Massachusetts calls it operating under the influence, because you do not necessarily need to be driving to be charged and convicted of the crime. The most common thing you may hear is that you can be charged with OUI if you are parked with the keys in the ignition. In fact, any mechanical or electrical act that could directly place the vehicle in movement can be considered operation.
The government must also show that you were operation on a public way. Again, this is not as simple as it may seem. You can certainly be arrested for OUI on private property, where the location is available and accessible to the public. This could be a parking lot, private drive, or right of way.
The element that is most often in question is that of impairment. That is, have you drunk enough alcohol (or taken enough drugs) such that you are under the influence and impaired. The police will be trying to gather evidence as soon as they pull you over if they suspect you of OUI. They will make observations of your appearance and behavior, and may ask you to perform some field sobriety tests. Lastly, they may ask you to take a portable breath test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC). If your BAC is over .08%, you are under the influence by law.
The portable breath test is not reliable enough to be used in a court of law, so the police will ask you to take another test at the station, using a breathalyzer. This test will again be used to determine your BAC, and a .08% will usually be enough to convict. You do not have to take the breathalyzer test, but a refusal will result in a suspension of your license, from 180-days to life, based on your record and age. It may be in your best interest to refuse the breathalyzer to limit the evidence that the police have against you.
If you are charged with an OUI, a skilled attorney will usually be able to determine whether the case is one for trial or a plea deal quickly. At trial, your attorney can cross-examine the police officer about countless issues which may tend to prove that you should not be found guilty.
Since this charge can happen to anyone, the legislature has come up with some “alternative dispositions” to the standard penalties. These alternatives can result in avoiding jail time, getting your license back, and even dismissal. An experienced attorney will help you navigate these complex laws and get the best result for your situation.