Massachusetts No-Fix Law – Grounds for Dismissal in OUI Cases
A driver who is stopped by police for operating under the influence will either be placed under arrest, or will be charged with an OUI. In a case where a driver is not placed under arrest, a citation provides notice of an OUI charge.
In Massachusetts, there is a statute referred to as the “no-fix” statute. This statute requires that, in most circumstances, a citation for a motor vehicle violation must be given to the driver at the time and place of the offence. The goal of this statute is to provide imitate notice to the driver and to prevent police tampering, or “fixing” of the ticket after the fact. Poor policing resulted in fixing tickets as personal favors, or making the decision to ticket a person on retaliatory or other illegitimate purposes.
The no fix law can be a powerful defense, as police failure of the statute can result in dismissal of the ticket. Certain criminal violations are covered by this statute, including OUI. The Supreme Judicial Court has even affirmed the dismissal of serious cases for officer’s failure to comply with the no-fix statute. In the case of Commonwealth v. O’Leary, the defendant was involved in an accident where his vehicle had rolled over. At the time of the accident, the defendant was on probation for an OUI. In addition, his license had been suspended, and he was not legally permitted to drive. The officer in this case, did not issue the citation at the time of the accident, and instead submitted the investigation report to his supervisor, who approved the report nine days later. Under the statute, the officer was required to issue the citation at the time of the accident, and the case was dismissed.
Various other cases have been dismissed for similar reasons. In Commonwealth v. Werra. In that case an OUI citation was issued over one year after the incident. This case was dismissed despite the defendant having multiple OUI citations for operating under the influence of drugs.
However, there are some limited exceptions to the no fix law, including arrest for a criminal traffic offense, a motor vehicle violation that resulted in one or more deaths, such as a motor vehicle homicide. Other exceptions include a situation where additional time is reasonably necessary to determine the nature of the violation or the identity of the alleged violator, or where the court finds that a circumstance not inconsistent with the purpose of the statute, justified the failure. For the latter two exceptions, the police may satisfy the no-fix law if an exception applies to the facts of the case and they mail or deliver it to you as soon as possible.
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