Operating Under the Influence (OUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) are all ways to describe the same thing: impaired driving. Impaired driving may be the result of consumption of alcohol or another chemical substance (e.g., marijuana, narcotics, etc.) or both alcohol and another chemical substance.
In Massachusetts, there are many arrests made daily for intoxicated driving. Attorney Ciraulo and his team of former prosecutors work hard to help you obtain either a verdict of not guilty or a dismissal of the charges against you. From there, we do everything in our power to help you restore your license / right to operate in Massachusetts. Contact us at (617) 770-3400 to learn more about how we will help you. In the meantime, here are some of the most commonly asked questions we get from our clients when we first meet them about their intoxicated driving charge.
What are my rights during OUI traffic stops?
If you are pulled over due to suspicion of drunk driving or pulled over for a traffic stop and then the police officer suspects intoxicated driving, you should always be respectful and non-confrontational, but you must always remember that you have certain rights:
- You have the right to remain silent (except you must show the police your driver's license and registration);
- You have the right to contact your attorney;
- You have the right (and most often you should) refuse field sobriety tests;
- You have the right (and most often you should) refuse to answer any questions.
What are standardized field sobriety tests (FSTs)?
Standardized field sobriety tests (FSTs) are tests approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These tests are allegedly designed to help police determine whether a driver is intoxicated or not.
There are three standardized FSTs:
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN test)
- The One-Leg Stand Test (OLS test)
- The Walk-and-Turn Test
The results of these tests may be used as evidence against you in an intoxicated driving case. Non-standardized tests, on the other hand, are not validated by NHTSA and are typically not admissible as evidence.
Non-standardized FSTs include:
- Finger to nose test
- The finger count test
- The hand pat test
- The alphabet test
- The forward (or reverse) counting test
Can I refuse field sobriety tests in Massachusetts?
Yes. The investigating officer will NOT inform you that you may refuse the FSTs, but you absolutely can tell him or her that you decline to participate in the testing. A refusal to submit to FSTs is NOT admissible in court and cannot be used against at trial.
What is “blood alcohol content” level?
Blood alcohol content (BAC) refers to the concentration of alcohol in your blood. When BAC is measured using a breathalyzer, no blood is drawn. Instead, the breathalyzer calculates the percentage of alcohol in your blood by measuring the alcohol in your breath and then converting (using a conversion factor) that value into BAC. This measurement is expressed as a percentage and is calculated in grams per 210 liters of breath. A BAC of 0.08 means there is 0.08% alcohol by volume. In the alternative, BAC may be measured by drawing a blood sample and directly measuring the quantity of ETOH (alcohol) in your blood. Measuring BAC is a way for law enforcement to calculate the amount of alcohol someone has had and their ability to drive a motor vehicle.
Can I refuse a breathalyzer test in Massachusetts?
Yes. You can refuse a breathalyzer test and a refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test cannot be used against you in court at trial. In most cases, the subject of an OUI investigation should refuse a breath test as a numerical value of .08% of alcohol concentration of your blood will be constitute "per se" impairment.
Refusal, however, carries with it significant consequences:
- Your license will be suspended for a period of time (depending on whether you have been convicted of OUI in the past); and
- You may still face a OUI charge based on other criteria, such as field sobriety test results, witness testimony, and the police officer's observations.
Keep in mind that the suspension of your license for a chemical test refusal may be vacated by filing a motion to restore upon either a not guilty verdict or dismissal.
Can I beat a drunk driving charge in Massachusetts?
Yes. Every OUI arrest has defenses. If your constitutional rights were violated, there may be motions to exclude evidence or a motion to dismiss. Performance on field sobriety tests as summarized in police reports often seem insurmountable, but attacking the administration of the test(s), highlighting the circumstances under which the tests were administered and performed, and directing the focus on the portion of the tests that you performed well very often result in a verdict of not guilty.
Can I just plead guilty or admit to sufficient facts (CWOF)?
An arraignment is a hearing where the defendant can plead guilty or not guilty. You can plead guilty, but the real question is whether you should or not. It would be a mistake to plead guilty at this time, especially without speaking to an attorney specializing in OUI defense.
If it's your first drunk driving charge, it can be tempting to plead guilty right away so that you can get the case over faster and get on with your life. But... If you do not fight to get the charge dismissed or to get a verdict of not guilty, any admission to sufficient facts will constitute your first drunk driving charge. While sometimes a Continuation without a Finding (CWOF) seems like a reasonable outcome (and sometimes it is), you should know that this type of disposition results in probation, loss of license, a Court order to complete the Alcohol Education Program, fines and fees, and insurance consequences. Just as important, a CWOF will count as a first OUI. Any arrest or conviction in the future will be a second or subsequent offense and will most assuredly lead to harsher penalties. A CWOF does NOT make the charge "go away."
Do I need a drunk driving lawyer in Massachusetts to win my OUI case?
If you plan to fight your drunk driving charges, it is in your best interest to have an attorney represent you. The law can be complex. The evidence can be highly technical and scientific. Police and state expert testimony can be damaging. All these things can lead to a conviction, unless you have the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully counter them.
How Much Does a OUI Defense Lawyer Cost?
There are a lot of factors to consider when determining the cost of a defense lawyer, like:
- The experience of the lawyer;
- Whether it is a first offense, second offense, third offense, or more;
- Whether the charge is straight OUI or involves injury of death;
- Whether the case is prosecuted in District or Superior Court; and
- Whether you must utilize the service of experts at trial.
Beware of any attorney offering reduced rates to handle your OUI. If the rate seems too good to be true, it probably is. OUI defense is a specialized field and experience counts.
Contact Attorney Ciraulo Today
Attorney Ciraulo knows the law and the technical, scientific make-up of field sobriety tests, blood tests, and breath tests. We also know how to identify and proactively address any constitutional rights violations to benefit your case. Contact Attorney Ciraulo today at (617) 770-3400 to schedule a consultation and get honest advice on your best legal options.