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Criminal Justice Reform Bill: What an OUI Defendant Should Know
On April 13, 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a new bill that made a number of important changes to the Massachusetts Criminal Justice System. The Attorneys at Coughlin Law Group paid close attention in order to best serve our clients. As part of this bill, certain changes were made that will have an effect on people charged with OUI (Operating under the Influence) in Massachusetts. Most of these changes will create additional obstacles for OUI defendants. With these changes, it is more important than ever to hire an experienced OUI Defense attorney to represent you.
Prior to this legislation, an OUI could be based on allegations of a person being under the influence of (1) alcohol, (2) ingested drugs, or (3) the vapors of glue. The new law amends the wording of the statute by replacing “the vapors of glue” with “smelling or inhaling the fumes of any substance having the property of releasing toxic vapors.” This expands the scope of the law, making it a crime to operate a vehicle if under the influence of any intoxicating fumes, not only glue. If you are charged with operating under the influence of intoxicating fumes, you should contact a Massachusetts OUI attorney to represent you.
Pre-Trial Detention for charges of OUI Third Offenses
For people charged with a third offense OUI, the new law specifically clarifies that prosecutors are permitted to seek pre-trial detention, without bail, based on alleged danger to an individual or the community. Previously, such detention could only be sought for a person who had three previous OUI convictions (i.e. charged with an OUI fourth offense). If you are charged with an OUI third offense or greater, hiring a skilled OUI lawyer early on could prevent you from being detained.
Increased Penalties for OUI Fifth or More Offenses
The new law increases and enhances the penalties for a person convicted of a fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, or subsequent OUI. A fifth OUI will carry a minimum mandatory sentence of 2½ years in either the house of corrections or state prison along with a $2,000 fine. A person convicted of a ninth OUI (or higher) will be subject to state prison sentence between 4 ½ and 10 years, along with a minimum fine of $2,000. The new law details additional sentences and sentencing restrictions for all OUI fifth or greater offenses. If you are charged with an OUI fifth or greater, you should contact a Massachusetts OUI Attorney to help you navigate through the potential sentences associated with the serious charge.
Lowered Standard for Waiver of First Offender’s Surcharge
For people who are required to take an OUI first offenders program under G.L. c. 90, § 24D, the new law changes the standard for waiver of the surcharge associated with the program. Previously, a judge could waive the surcharge only if it would cause “grave and serious hardship to such individual or to the family thereof.” Now, a judge may waive the surcharge if it would cause “substantial financial hardship to the individual, the individual’s immediate family or the individual’s dependents.” This lower standard should result in a higher likelihood of the surcharge for this program being waived. At Coughlin Law Group, we try and get the best results possible for our clients, including the waiver of such fees where possible.