I spoke with a gentleman last week who had pled out to a first offense OUI. He was represented by a DUI lawyer, who advised him to “plead out,” so that he could get back on the road as soon as possible. He had a very defensible case as there were no field sobriety tests and no witnessed operation of the motor vehicle. He refused the breathalyzer when he was arrested, so there was no blood alcohol evidence. This should have been an easy win for almost any Mass. DUI lawyer. However, the trial never happened. Instead, following his lawyer’s advice, the DUI defendant pled out and agreed to the following: a 45 day loss of license, supervised probation, with a monthly $65.00 probation fee, a $50 victim witness assessment, a $50 victim witness fee; a $250 head injury fee; and a $250 OUI fee. The judge approved the plea and ordered only a 45 day loss of license.
The unsuspecting client learned that getting back on the road would not be as easy as his lawyer claimed. The defendant had a previous OUI which occurred 9 years and approximately 5 months prior to his second offense. Thus, the court ordered 45 day loss of license was not worth the paper it was written on. Instead, the Registry suspended his license for 2 years. This is because he has a prior alcohol program assignment. It was, therefore, irrelevant how the court treated the case. The law says someone with a prior DUI conviction or program assignment will have his or her license revoked for 2 years and a judge cannot override this.
Additionally, because the defendant refused to take the breathalyzer, the Registry of Motor Vehicles automatically suspended his license for 3 years, under the breath test refusal law. Because breath test refusal suspensions run consecutively and not concurrently with DUI suspensions, his 2 year loss of license for pleading out to a DUI second offense will not start until he has served this 3 year breathalyzer refusal suspension. This means that his total suspension time is 5 years and not 45 days, as he thought.
To make matters even worse, as a second offender, this defendant will be required to have an ignition interlock device restriction on his driver’s license during the whole time that he is on a hardship license and for at least 2 years after he gets his hardship hours removed. This came as another unpleasant surprise and his lawyer never explained any of this. The dui defendant will likely lose his job, because he will not have a license for at least four and his employer will not permit him to install an ignition interlock device in his company vehicle. Unlike the igniton intelrock laws in other states, the Massachusetts Ignition Interlock Device Law makes no exceptions for those who drive company vehicles.
This case demonstrates the importance of hiring the right lawyer to handle your DUI case. Lawyers who are not familiar with the laws governing drunk driving license suspension and the ignition interlock requirements have no business handling Massachusetts DUI cases. Melanie’s law imposes harsh consequences to those who plead out to drunk driving. In order to properly advise clients, lawyers should be knowledgeable about all of the potential consequences and penalties.