A second DUI charge is a misdemeanor in Massachusetts (unless there is some escalating factor). This means, under normal circumstances, there is no risk of going to a federal or state prison. However, defendants still face the possibility of local jail time for second DUI convictions.
Here are a few of the jail sentences that are possible for a second DUI in Massachusetts (and how they happen):
1. No Jail Time
This is the most common result of a DUI second offense in MA. There are various ways this can be achieved, including:
- Continuance Without Finding (CWOF): A CWOF is an admission that the state has sufficient facts to find you guilty, and an agreement that the defendant will accept specific penalties without a trial. In exchange, you will not be found guilty or convicted.
- Alternative Disposition: Instead of the standard minimum jail sentence, most people can avoid jail time for second DUI charges by agreeing to an Alternative Disposition. This will entail a two-week stay at an inpatient alcohol treatment facility.
- 24D “Cahill” Disposition: If your previous DUI conviction was over ten years ago, you might qualify for a 24D disposition usually reserved for first offenders. When used to avoid jail time for second DUI charges, it’s called a “Cahill” Disposition. Rather than jail, you’d participate in a 24D first offender alcohol education program.
- Plea Bargain: In exchange for an admission of guilt, the prosecution might agree to reduce the charges to something more favorable to the defense. For example, it’s sometimes possible to remove a Child Endangerment charge—which would have disqualified you for an alternative disposition—or even (in rare cases) to reduce the charges to “Wet Reckless.” It’s important to note, however, that the government will rarely dismiss an OUI charge unless the evidence is clearly insufficient.
- Have the Case Dismissed: A skilled DUI lawyer may be able to find significant flaws in the state’s case against you that suppress (or call into serious question) central pieces of evidence relied upon by the state. In some cases, this could mean the case is thrown out before it ever goes to trial.
- Win the Case in Court: A trial can be a frightening experience. But it’s generally worth it to fight your charges and force the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The possibility of jail time for second DUI offenders is motivation enough, and an experienced DUI attorney has a wide range of defenses available to fight a DUI case at trial.
2. Sixty Days to Two-and-a-Half Years
These are the standard minimum and maximum jail sentences for a second DUI conviction in Massachusetts. While harsh, they’re not much more than for a first offense. The only difference is that a first offense has no minimum sentence, but a second offender is required to serve at least 60 days in a correctional facility (unless they’ve received an Alternative Disposition).
Massachusetts has the strictest jail sentences for DUI in the United States, mainly due to the 2005 overhaul of Massachusetts OUI law called “Melanie’s Law.”
3. Six Months to Ten Years
Felony OUI Serious Bodily Injury has a six-month-minimum sentence. It’s critical to fight this charge in court to avoid jail time for second DUI charges because you’re generally ineligible for an Alternative Disposition.
4. Five Years to Twenty-Five Years
This severe sentence is only imposed if you are convicted of an OUI Causing Death. To be convicted, the Commonwealth must prove that you:
- Operated a motor vehicle...
- Recklessly or negligently...
- In a public area...
- While intoxicated...
- In a way that caused the death of another person.
Jail Time For Second DUI Offenders Is Avoidable
Most second offenders don’t go to jail. If you’ve been charged with a second DUI, you must contact an experienced Massachusetts DUI attorney immediately. They will help you explore your options and build an effective defense against jail time.