I get calls all the time from people who have lots of very specific questions about drunk driving penalties. And I always try to answer them as accurately possible.
Is an OUI a felony? No, a 1st or 2nd Offense Oui is a misdemeanor offense. Only a 3rd offense or greater is a felony charge.
Almost always, that question is just a fear that a charge is a felony, and that could cause the person to lose their job or make it difficult to get another job.
But one of my most important responsibilities as a defense lawyer has is to help clients understand what is happening, and get them to relax a little and feel as comfortable as possible.
An OUI arrest puts you in a very unfamiliar and stressful situation. Everyone is nervous and trying to grapple with what has happened to them.
So we need answer the question behind the questions. When someone asks a technical legal question about whether an OUI charge is a felony or a misdemeanor, I need to know why they are asking that.
Sometimes it really does matter to them – “A felony conviction could cost me my job.”
But most of the time, you are just worried. How much trouble am I really in, and what is going to happen to me?
The two most common questions are:
- Am I going to jail? (very unlikely)
- Is an OUI in Massachusetts a felony charge? (No, only on a 3rd offense or greater is a felony. A 1st or 2nd offense OUI is a misdemeanor charge.)
Both questions are really about the fear of serious consequences. But most of the time, these fears are wildly overblown.
“Have You Ever Been Arrested Prior To This Incident?”
This is the first question I ask, before I even want to answer any unnecessarily complicated and detailed questions is “Have you ever been arrested or charged with a crime before?”
Answer: “No, I’ve Never Been Arrested Before”
If the answer is No, then you have very little to worry about for a first offense OUI.
I am happy to walk through the basic outline of what will happen in court, what I can offer as a lawyer, and how we can almost always work out a deal for the minimum penalties allowed by law.
And I am happy to let anyone know that for most 1st offense plea deals, we can get you a hardship license so you can be driving again in a very short time, if that is your main concern.
Answer: “Yes, I have a Previous Criminal Conviction”
If the answer is Yes, the details of the prior incidents are important, both to evaluate the seriousness of the potential penalties, and to consider the best defense options and strategies.
If it isn’t a drunk driving charge, and is a minor misdemeanor, it may not be a big deal. If there is a prior OUI conviction, but it is more than 10 years old, we can petition for a 24D, so you can be treated as a first-time offender.
Either way, part of my job as a defense attorney is to understand your case and give you the best advice about your options and the most likely outcome. And, once again, the most likely outcome is often much less severe than you think.
Felony OUI Charges And Risk Of Jail time
First and second offense OUI charges are misdemeanors, and there is very little risk of actually ever serving time in jail.
A 3rd offense OUI is a felony with a mandatory minimum jail sentence if convicted, and the priors are provable. But even a serious OUI felony charge is not a lost cause.
I’ve had some very good results in getting these charges knocked down in quite a few cases over my career:
- 3rd Offense OUI – Dedham District court – Not Guilty (12/13)
- 3rd Offense OUI w/Child Endangerment – Framingham District court – Not Guilty (9/13)
- 3rd Offense OUI – Greenfield District Court – Reduced to 2nd Offense, No Jail Time (1/13)
- 4th Offense OUI – Boston Municipal District Court – Reduced to 2nd Offense, no jail time (11/12)
- 5th Offense OUI – Wrentham District Court – Reduced to 2nd Offense, no jail time (7/12)
- 3rd Offense OUI – Peabody District Court – Reduced to 2nd Offense, no jail time (5/11)
- 3rd Offense OUI Drugs – Haverhill District Court – Reduced to 2nd Offense, no jail time (5/11)
- 4th Offense OUI – Concord District Court – Not Guilty at Jury Trial (4/11)
- 4th Offense OUI – Boston Municipal District Court – Not Guilty at Jury Trial (2/11)
- and many more …
Please call me for a consultation on any DUI/OUI charge in Massachusetts. I’ve worked in every District Court in the state, and I can absolutely help you get through this.
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