In Massachusetts, the length of a DUI license suspension is determined only by the number of DUI convictions and/or alcohol program assignments, which count as convictions, which an individual has. When calculating the license suspension, it is completely irrelevant that the defendant might have been charged as a first offender when he or she has multiple DUI offenses. Likewise, it does not matter whether the court treated defendant as a first, second, third, or fourth offender for criminal sentencing purposes. The Registry of Motor Vehicles is required to impose a license suspension based on the number of operating under the influence convictions or program assignments, no matter when and where they occurred. This means that out of state DUI convictions or assignments will count just as if they had occurred in Massachusetts. Also, due to the lifetime look-back period which Massachusetts law requires, DUI convictions will never “drop off” your record after a certain period of time. Out of state convictions will count against you just as if the offenses had occurred here in Massachusetts.
Under Massachusetts law, to impose enhanced criminal penalties in OUI cases, the prosecution must prove , beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant has prior OUI convictions. This is usually done through court, probation, and Registry records. However, the prosecution is sometimes not able to prove that the defendant was the same person who was previously convicted. Also, the prosecution is also sometimes unable to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the prior offenses resulted in convictions or program assignments. When this happens, the defendant cannot be punished by the court as a repeat offender. However, the Registry’s standard for imposing a longer license suspension based on a prior record is “substantial evidence,” which is a much lower standard of proof. Thus, it is possible for the court system to treat you as a first offender while the Registry treats you as a repeat offender for suspension, hardship licensing, and ignition interlock purposes.
In some DUI cases, the prosecutor and defense attorney might make a deal to reduce the charge from say OUI 3rd or 4th offense to a lesser offense. This is usually done to avoid the risk of a jail or prison sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. When this happens, the Registry will still impose a license suspension based on the true number of prior DUI offenses appearing in the defendant’s RMV, court, and probation records. The plea bargain carries absolutely no weight with the Registry, as the Registry was not a party to the plea agreement.
If you are facing a drunk driving charge in Massachusetts, you should understand the consequences of pleading out and how the Registry determine the length of your license suspension. Also, even if you are charged as first offender by the police or treated as a first offender by the court system, if you have a prior OUI conviction or program assignment, the Registry impose the ignition interlock restriction while you are on any type of hardship license and for a minimum of 2 years after your hardship hours are removed.