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What is the look back for prior OUI offenses in Massachusetts?

Under Massachusetts OUI law, there is a lifetime look back for prior OUI offenses. This simply means that the level of offense you will be charged with will be based on the total number of OUI convictions you have in your lifetime. It is important when you speak to an OUI Lawyer in Massachusetts that you tell your attorney about all prior convictions you have even if unknown to the district attorney.

Those convictions can be taken from Massachusetts or from any other state where the conviction is for a DUI. The only issue is whether the offense for a DUI in another state is similar to our statute, which we refer to as an OUI. For Example, if a motorist was convicted of DWI in Georgia 7 years ago, but this fact is unknown to the district attorney, even though the offense would be considered a first offense by the court, the RMV would treat the offense as a second offense.

Some states have a look back for prior offenses, meaning that in those states those courts will only consider a prior offense if it happened within a certain time period. The time period varies with the State, it could be five years, some states use 10 or 15 years.

Massachusetts abolished these look backs when Melanie’s Law was adapted and implemented the lifetime look back. The only exception to the lifetime look back where it makes a difference how long ago your prior offense was, is when you have a second offense and your first offense is more than 10 years apart from the second offense. This brings up what is referred to as a “Second Chance First Offender” where you can receive first offender treatment with the requirement that you install the ignition interlock device into you vehicle prior to re-instating your license.

Breath Test Refusal and Prior OUI Offense

The lifetime look back applies to breath test refusal penalties. The penalties for refusing a breath test are dependent on the number of prior OUI convictions you have in your lifetime.

Accordingly it is important when you meet with an attorney for the first time, that you disclose any prior OUI convictions you may have had in your lifetime. Failure to disclose this could make the Attorney’s advice inaccurate. Some wrongly believe that because the offense happened so long ago the Registry of Motor Vehicles does not have any records of it or that it does not matter at this point, it does matter though and it will impact the license consequence and could impact the initial penalties you face in court.

  • What Happens if the DA does not know about a Prior OUI conviction?

There are times where the District Attorney may not pick up on an out of state or prior OUI conviction. When this occurs, you will not face the enhanced penalties for court purposes because you were not charged with the higher level of offense. For example, if the DA does not have the knowledge that you have two prior OUI convictions instead of just one, you would avoid the potential court penalties for a third offense such as; the mandatory jail time, the higher court fees and fines, but you would not avoid the mandatory eight year license loss because the Registry of Motor Vehicles would have knowledge of the prior offenses.

Typically at arraignment is when you find out what offense level you are being charged with. It does happen where the District Attorney will pick up a prior offense at a pre-trial conference, at this point what the Commonwealth would seek to amend the Compliant to reflect the proper offense level.

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