Operating a motor vehicle under the influence (OUI) of drugs is becoming a big problem in the United States and Massachusetts, especially since the passage of Mass.Gen.Laws ch.94G§7in 2016, which made marijuana legal for recreational use. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 11.8 million people drove under the influence of drugs nationwide in 2016, and the Center for Disease Control(CDC) has indicated that drivers that use marijuana are 25% more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers who do not use marijuana.
Although this finding by the CDC could be skewed by other factors such as age and gender, it shed light on some of the possible unintended consequences that recreational marijuana use could have. From a legal perspective, an OUI drug charge carries the same penalties as an OUI alcohol charge. However, there are some very important differences between these charges when it comes to the state’s ability to prove that you are guilty of an OUI drug charge.
Penalties for an OUI Drug Conviction in Massachusetts
If you are convicted of OUI for drugs, you will face the same penalties as if you were convicted of drunk driving under Mass.Gen.Laws ch.90§24, which, for first-time offenders, consists of the following:
- Up to 2½ years in the house of corrections
- A $500 to $5,000 fine
- A combination of jail time and fines
Moreover, assuming you don’t enter a diversionary program, your license will be revoked for a year with the possibility of being issued a hardship license for work or school three months after your date of conviction. Your license can also be suspended for refusing to submit to any drug test requested by a police officer due to being suspected of OUI for drugs.
OUI Drugs vs. OUI Alcohol
The problem that police officers and prosecutors have with OUI drug offenses is actually proving that you ccommittedOUI in accordance with Mass.Gen.Laws ch.90§24. Remember, for you to be convicted of OUI for drugs or alcohol, the state has to prove that:
- You were operating a motor vehicle
- You were driving on a public road
- When you were driving on a public road, you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
The last element is what can prove difficult. In the context of alcohol, a police officer will administer a breathalyzer to prove that you were under the influence of alcohol at the time you were driving, but due to the nature of drugs, a police officer would have to ask you to submit to a drug test. Common drug tests that are administered include a urinalysis or blood test, but none of these tests can prove with precision when you actually consumed the controlled substance. They can only prove that you consumed a controlled substance within a certain period of time such as the last five, fifteen, or thirty days.
Field Sobriety Tests in Massachusetts
Moreover, Mass.Gen.Laws ch.90§24 states that a driver has given implied consent to submit to a chemical test or analysis of the driver’s blood or breath, not a field sobriety test or a field test by drug recognition expert. Therefore, if you are suspected of OUI for drugs, you should not submit to a field sobriety test in most instances, because the test itself is often used against you in court.