Driving a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol is a criminal offense in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Often the terms operating under the influence (OUI), driving under the influence (DUI), and driving while intoxicated (DWI) are used interchangeably, but the official charge is known as Operating Under the Influence (OUI)

Let’s explore what constitutes an OUI charge and examine the potential consequences of this charge. 

What Constitutes an OUI? 

In the State of Massachusetts, under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24(1)(f)(2) a motorist operating a vehicle with a ​​blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more can be convicted of Operating Under the Influence. 

Being under the influence is not just considered the use of alcohol over the legal; limit, but it could also be the consumption of an intoxicating substance such as marijuana, narcotics, intoxicating vapors, or other drugs.

police car

What Is A Field Sobriety Test? 

To determine if a motorist is operating a vehicle over the legal limit a field sobriety test is often conducted by a police officer at the scene of an accident or during a traffic stop. 

Field sobriety tests often consist of the walk-and-turn test, the one-leg stand test, the alcohol breath test, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. These field tests were determined to be reliable indicators of sobriety by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The walk-and-turn test involves walking nine steps heel to toe and turning when the police officer tells the person to do so. The office will be visibly looking for balance issues, starting too soon, the ability to follow directions, and whether the test can be completed without stopping. Two or more indicators could show a person is driving while impaired. 

The one-leg stand test includes the motorist standing with their feet together and arms at their sides while following a police officer’s directions. During this test, the officer will ask the motorist to raise one leg six inches off the ground keeping toes pointed forward and counting until the officer says to stop. Indicators that a motorist is impaired during this test include: swaying, putting a foot down for balance, using the arms for balance, and hopping. 

The horizontal gaze test includes the officer examining the eyes for any jerking motion. According to Field Sobriety Tests Online, “When someone is intoxicated by alcohol and/or certain drugs, this jerking becomes more pronounced. As such, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test is used by law enforcement agents to evaluate an individual’s nystagmus in order to determine if probable cause exists for a drunk-driving arrest.” 

In addition to these field tests, a motorist may be asked to take a breathalyzer test which can measure blood alcohol concentration, a chemical test, or a urine test. Failure to comply with these requests will result in the RMV will suspending/revoking your learner’s permit/driver’s license or right to operate immediately. There is no notification period.

Consequences of an OUI 

Depending upon how many OUIs you have been charged with in the past and the age of the motorist, there is a range of fines and prison time attached to each offense. For instance, the potential penalties for a First Offense DUI in Massachusetts are a fine ranging from $500 to $5,000 and/or a period of incarceration up to 2 ½ years in the House of Correction. Upon a conviction for a First Offense DUI, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will suspend your license for up to one year.

For subsequent offenses the fine and potential jail time increase. For a full schedule of potential charges and criminal consequences visit Mass.gov for specifics.