Is DUI a Felony in Massachusetts?
When you are charged with a DUI, it feels like your world has been turned upside down. You start wondering, will I lose my license? How will this impact my life? Am I going to have a felony on my record? In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the answers to these questions are going to vary depending on how many times you have been charged with a DUI.
1st Offense DUI
A first offense DUI is not considered a felony in Massachusetts, instead you will only be charged with a misdemeanor. Potentially, you will face a maximum of 2 ½ years in the House of Correction, as well as a fine ranging from $500 up to $5000. In addition to these penalties, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will suspend your license for a period up to 1 year. However, with the help of a qualified DUI defense lawyer, the penalties you face will not be so severe. In the best case scenario, you may even be able to only serve a 1 year probation, attend an Alcohol Education Program, and have your license suspended for 45 days. In addition, if it is your first DUI, you are able to apply for a hardship license, allowing you to drive for a set 12 hour period every day.
2nd Offense DUI
A second offense DUI is very similar to receiving your first. You will not be charged with a felony, but a misdemeanor. You will face a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of 2 ½ years in the House of Correction. The license suspension is more strict than with your first DUI, with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles able to suspend your license for up to 2 years. Like with your first offense, you are able to apply for a hardship license. However, you will need to complete a 14 day inpatient program before being allowed to apply for it. In addition, you will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in your car during any hardship license period, and for 2 years after the reinstatement of your full license.
3rd Offense DUI
A third offense DUI is when things get very serious. In Massachusetts, your third offense is considered a felony. The prosecutor can then ask the judge to hold you for up to 120 days without bail while awaiting trial. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance to contact an experienced DUI lawyer immediately. They will be able to argue on your behalf that you should not be held without bail. The fines for your third DUI will range from $1000-$15000. You will also have to serve a mandatory minimum of 150 days in jail, with a maximum sentence of 2 ½ years. As if these penalties weren’t bad enough, your license will be suspended for 8 years.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony Offenses
So, why is a felony so much worse than a misdemeanor? Well, a felony is a much more serious offense, and carries with it far more serious consequences. While a misdemeanor does not have the potential for time in a state prison, a felony does. With a misdemeanor you are unlikely to be sentenced to any jail time, with a felony it is almost a certainty without proper legal representation. Even after your release from prison, a felony will follow you for the rest of your life. Many people find obtaining employment very difficult, if not impossible, after a felony conviction. For these reasons, when faced with a felony charge, it is paramount to engage the services of a reputable law firm as soon as possible.
Child Endangerment and Felony DUIs
If a child is in the car when you were driving under the influence, you will also be charged with child endangerment, and will receive additional penalties regarding your DUI.
For your first DUI with child endangerment, the minimum incarceration in a House of Corrections will be 90 days, and the minimum fine is increased to $1000. You will also receive an additional year on any license suspension.
For a second offense, the fine will be $5000-$10,000, with a minimum of 6 months in jail and a maximum of 2 ½ years in a state prison. An additional 3 years will be added to your license suspension. It is important to note that child endangerment can be, and often is, charged as a felony in Massachusetts. This means that even if it is your first DUI offense, you can be charged with a felony if a child is involved.
DUI Offenses Involving Injury or Death
If you are lucky, your DUI will not have resulted in bodily harm to anyone. However, if it has then you will face much more serious legal consequences. A DUI that results in serious bodily harm, whether serious injury or death, will be charged as a felony DUI. It does not matter if it is your first or second offense, once there is bodily harm, it becomes a felony in Massachusetts. This will result in you facing a minimum of 6 months in jail and a maximum of 10 years in state prison.
When to Contact a DUI Lawyer for a DUI
You should never wait to contact a lawyer for DUI defense. As soon as there is the possibility of being charged with a DUI, it is in your best interest to acquire legal representation. The earlier in the process your lawyer is involved, the easier their job is and the better protected you will be from any legal ramifications. Remember, it is of the utmost importance that the lawyer you hire is experienced and specializes in DUI law.
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