Surprise Consequences of a Mass. DUI First Offense Plea

I just got off the phone with a 38 year old gentleman who was represented by a “public defender.” On his free lawyer’s advice, he pled guilty to a 1st offense OUI. He had refused the breathalyzer and had a prior OUI conviction which was more than 10 years old.  Like many who plead out to Mass. DUI charges, he’s regretting his decision because his license will be suspended until May of 2013 and he will be required to use an ignition interlock device while he’s on a hardship license and at least until May of 2015, two years after he gets his full license reinstated. What this gentleman did not realize is that the ninety (90) day suspension for DUI would run only after his 3 years chemical test refusal (CTR) suspension, which the Massachusetts Registry imposed pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 24 (1)(f)(1), the Massachusetts Breathalyzer Refusal Law. Melanie’s Law requires mandatory interlock usage for all repeat DUI offenders in Massachusetts and there are no exceptions.

Like many, this gentleman asked about getting a new trial, reversing his plea, appealing to the Registry, and taking his case to the Division of Insurance Board of Appeal. In his situation, these avenues are a waste of time and money. He will be interlock required and there’s nothing he can do about it, with the exception of moving out of state and not driving here in Massachusetts.

In every Massachusetts DUI case, there are statutorily imposed penalties such as chemical test refusal suspensions, administrative per se suspensions, interlock requirements, and automatic suspensions for having been convicted of DUI or assigned to an alcohol education program. These penalties are imposed automatically by operation of law and they are not dependent on judicial authorization. Instead, these penalties are triggered by factors such as the DUI defendant’s prior record, failing or refusing a breathalyzer, and whether or not the defendant is assigned to an alcohol education program or is convicted of DUI. Nothing else matters, including the terms of the plea agreement. Massachusetts DUI attorneys should be careful to properly and fully advise their clients of the consequences of pleading out.