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Massachusetts 2018 Criminal Justice Reform Act Changes the Penalties in Mass OUI Laws

The legislature recently amended several statutes in an effort to reform the criminal justice system in Massachusetts. Aside from changes to the OUI laws, most of the reforms will have a positive impact on individuals facing certain criminal charges. We will address all the changes in subsequent blogs.

Changes to OUI Laws

The one area that saw an increase in penalties was related to a SUBSEQUENT offense of Operating Under the Influence charges.

M.G.L. c. 90 § 24 has been amended to provide for additional penalties if you are convicted of a 5th or subsequent OUI offense. If you are convicted of a 5th or 6th offense OUI you face not less than 2 ½ years in the house of correction or state prison nor more than 5 years in state prison. If you are convicted of a 7th or 8th offense OUI, you face not less than 3 ½ years in state prison nor more than 8 years in state prison. If you are convicted of a 9th offense OUI, you face not less than 4 ½ years in state prison nor more than 10 years.

Importantly, if you are charged with a 7th or subsequent offense OUI, your case will be litigated in Superior Court. Normally OUI cases not resulting in serious bodily injury or death are dealt with in district court but the penalty for a 7th or subsequent offense requires an indictment by a grand jury and that your case be tried in Superior Court. The statute was most likely amended to take into account the increased number of people being charged and convicted of multiple OUIs.

The legislature also changed the language of several OUI-related statutes to be more inclusive of those operating under the influence of inhalants including OUI-Drugs, OUI with Serious Injury, OUI Boat, Homicide by OUI, and Carrying a Loaded Firearm While Under the Influence. Previously, the statute only punished those operating under the influence of “vapors of glue” but the language in the statutes was amended to include “smelling or inhaling the fumes of any substance having the property or releasing toxic vapors.” When the statute was originally written, the most common way individuals got high from fumes was by inhaling glue. Since then, people have found varying ways to inhale fumes such as inhaling spray paint, computer cleaner, whipped cream dispensers or aerosols, nitrous oxide, paint thinner, and lighter fluid. This change to the law closed a perceived loop hole that allowed people who had gotten high from inhaling anything other than glue to avoid being convicted of Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol.

Criminal justice reform has been a long time coming. While not perfect, many of the changes will lead to significant positive impacts in our clients lives. If you are facing criminal charges or are concerned that you may face charges, contact us today! Contact us at Sweeney & Associates today for a free consultation. We can be reached at (617) 328-6900 or reach us by email at mail@rsweeneylaw.com.

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