Chemical Test Refusal in Massachusetts
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Under Massachusetts criminal law, Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test can be found at Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 90, Section 24(f)(1). Massachusetts is an Implied Consent State.
This means that every driver who is operating on Massachusetts public roadways impliedly agrees to consent to a chemical breath test when requested to do so by a law enforcement officer who has reason to believe that the operator may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
A chemical test may be performed by breath analysis (i.e. breathalyzer) or by blood. Refusal is not a crime or chargeable civil infraction in Massachusetts.
Refusing a breath test cannot be used as evidence against a defendant at criminal trial. However, a breath test result may admissible against a defendant on trial for an OUI offense.
When a person refuses a test, the officer must inform the person of the consequences that the Registry of Motor Vehicles will impose an administrative license suspension. If a person refuses a breath test and is later acquitted of the related OUI charge, the person’s license will be reinstated.
Once a person refuses a breath test, the officer is required to confiscate the person’s driver’s license and provide notice of the suspension and vehicle impoundment. The potential consequences for Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test in the Commonwealth may be found at Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 90, Section 24.
What is a Hardship License?
A hardship license is addressed under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 90, Section 24 and Section 24D. A hardship license allows a person who has been convicted of an OUI offense to drive for 12 consecutive hours a day, for any purposes related to work, family, school, medical appointments, or other reasons.
To qualify for a hardship license, you must be able to prove that driving is a crucial part of managing your family, work, school, and/or medical obligations and that public transportation is not available to enable you to do so.
Once a motorist is deemed eligible for a hardship license, he or she must go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) for license reinstatement by paying a reinstatement fee.
A person may apply for a hardship license as early as three days after entering a plea to an OUI offense, providing this is a first-time OUI offense. However, if you have prior OUI offenses on your record, will be subject to a term of license suspension period before receiving a hardship license.
If a motorist refuses a chemical test, he or she will not be eligible for a hardship license. A motorist is required to install an ignition interlock system as a condition of receiving a hardship license if the person has 2 or more OUI convictions. This may be found under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90, Section 24(c)(2) and Section 241/2.
What is an Ignition Interlock Device?
An Ignition Interlock Device (IID), many times referred to as a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID), is slightly larger than a cell phone and is wired to a vehicle’s ignition in order to measure Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) as a condition of starting the vehicle.
Once installed, a motorist attempting to start the vehicle must first provide a breath sample. If the interlock device detects alcohol in your blood, measured from your breath, the engine will not start. As you drive, the device will periodically require additional breath samples to insure the absence of alcohol in the motorist’s system.
Anyone can have an ignition interlock system installed in their vehicle. They are typically installed as a court ordered condition of an OUI case disposition. Once approved by the court, the motorist is responsible for paying for the installation and removal of the device, along with its monthly maintenance fees.
Administrative Penalties for Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test
For a first offense, the defendant’s license will be suspended for 180 days. If convicted of the related OUI offense, the defendant will receive another 45-90 days of suspension.
For a second offense, the defendant’s license will be suspended for 3 years. If convicted of the related OUI offense, the defendant will receive another 2 years of suspension.
For a third offense, the defendant’s license will be suspended for 5 years. If convicted of the related OUI charge, the defendant will receive another 8 years of suspension.
For a fourth offense, the defendant’s license will be suspended for life. If convicted of the related OUI charge, the defendant will receive another 10 years of suspension. Any fifth or subsequent conviction will result in lifetime suspension of the defendant’s license.
If the defendant who refuses is under the age of 21 and has no prior convictions for an OUI, then his or her license will be suspended for 3 years. If convicted, the defendant will receive another 210 – 365 days of suspension. If the defendant who refuses is under the age of 21 and has a prior OUI conviction, his or her license will be suspended for 3 years and if convicted of a second OUI another 2 years suspension will be added.
For any third refusal, the defendant under age 21 will lose his or her license for 5 years and if convicted of a third or OUI an additional 8 years of suspension will be added. If the defendant has three or more prior refusals, his or her license will be suspended for life.
If you have been charged with Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test call (508) 213-9113 to schedule a free consultation with experienced Massachusetts OUI Defense Lawyers of the Law Office of John L. Calcagni III, and learn the best way to proceed with your case.