Many times in Massachusetts first offense drunk driving cases are resolved with a continuance without a guilty finding which is commonly referred to as a CWOF. Previously for breathalyzer refusal purposes, those operating under the influence cases which were resolved with CWOFs instead of guilty findings were not treated as prior convictions when calculating the length of breath test refusal suspensions. Prior to the 2012 amendments to the Massachusetts DUI law, an admission to sufficient facts followed by a CWOF was not a conviction for chemical test refusal suspension purposes.
Now, however, when it comes to license suspensions, prior DUI cases which were resolved with admissions to sufficient facts, alcohol program assignments, and CWOFs can be counted to subject a DUI defendant to enhanced license suspension penalties based on prior DUI offenses. It is lawful for the Registry to treat a customer as a repeat offender for suspension and ignition interlock purposes if his or her previous DUI case was resolved with a CWOF and eventually dismissed. This means that a dismissal of a prior DUI does not mean that the incident cannot be counted against the defendant if there is a future DUI incident or breathalyzer refusal.
On July 1, 2012, the Massachusetts Legislature made effective St. 2012, c. 139, § 98. This legislation added the words “or admits to a finding of sufficient facts” to the definition of “conviction” to the DUI statute. Now, because alcohol program assignments and admissions to sufficient facts count just like convictions, it is legal for the Registry and Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance, as well as Massachusetts courts to count these OUI offenses when determining punishments, ignition interlock device requirements, and the length of driver’s license suspensions for second and subsequent offenders.
Those accused of DUI in Massachusetts with prior offenses should be mindful of this when deciding whether or not to admit to sufficient facts as part of a plea bargain. These admissions can and will be used to impose enhanced penalties. Also, admissions to sufficient facts and CWOFs count just like convictions when it comes to Commercial Driver’s License Revocations and Disqualifications. This is because G.L. c. 90F Section 1, defines the term “conviction” very broadly.
Admissions and CWOFs in DUI cases will not be considered convictions for firearms licensing purposes, due to the more restrictive definition of the term “conviction” found in G.L c. 140 Sec. 121.
Massachusetts lawyers and OUI defendants should be aware of this information when deciding how to handle an operating under the influence charge.