How to Expunge a DUI in Boston, Massachusetts

Having a conviction for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, called an OUI in the State of Massachusetts, can mess up your life completely. It can damage your chances of getting the job you want, of owning or renting a home, being ac

Massachusetts drunk driving penalties and Melanie's Law

In the State of Massachusetts, the criminal offence of driving under the influence (DUI) is known as Operating Under the Influence (OUI). The maximum legal concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream (BAC) for an adult operating a motor vehicle is 0.08. For a minor under the age of 21, this limit is 0.02.

The penalties for a first-time OUI offender are:

  • A custodial sentence of not more than 2 1/2 years in a House of Correction
  • A minimum fine of $500, rising to a maximum of $5,000
  • One-year suspension of Drivers License. This may be re-evaluated after three months in cases of work or education hardship or six months in cases of general hardship.

The penalties for a first offence are more severe if there was a minor under the age of 14 in the car at the time of the offence. This is called child endangerment and carries a penalty of ninety days to two and a half years in prison, a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000 and a one-year driving ban.

In 2005, the State of Massachusetts passed 'Melanie's Law', a package of harsher penalties for drunk driving. Among these are the compulsory installation of an ignition interlock device to reinstate driving privileges after a second  or greater conviction. This applies even if the prior conviction took place decades in the past. The driver's car may also be impounded.

Massachusetts is an 'implied consent' state. This means that at the time a driver obtains their license, they agree to provide a blood test when requested. The penalty for refusal is a 180 day license suspension.

Having a DUI/OUI expunged from a criminal record

The single moment of poor judgment leading to a DUI offence can have a devastating effect on the rest of an offender's life. Prospective employers, landlords, educators and the armed forces may all request a criminal record check. It may even affect a person's chances of getting into Canada. 

Under certain circumstances, it may be possible to have a conviction for DUI cleared from your criminal history. This is called having a record expunged and it means that potential employers and landlords will not be able to see it on your record if they conduct a search of your background. Other expressions for this procedure include having your conviction 'set aside', or having the record 'sealed'. The conviction will, however, remain visible to officers of the courts. Strict criteria must be met and the process is not automatic. If you qualify and you want your record expunged, it is up to you to take the initiative.

You may be able to have your conviction expunged if:

  • You do not have an extensive criminal record apart from your DUI conviction.
  • You do not have any felonies on your record.
  • You have not been convicted of a similar offence in the last five years.

If you decide to apply for an expungement, the first step is to obtain the services of a qualified attorney with the relevant experience in the complexities of DUI law.  Under his guidance, you will then need to contact the law enforcement agency that conducted the arrest. You will need to pay a filing fee and show picture identification. They will also need to know the date of the arrest and the exact charge. Not until you have acquired all of the relevant background information will you be able to complete the application for an expungement.

After you have provided the necessary information to the law enforcement agency, your application will be presented to a judge by a representative of the state attorney's office. This process is called an 'Order of Expungement'. You are formally asking the judge to accept your application and seal your record. You may need to attend this hearing. Once the Order has been presented, the judge will decide on whether or not to grant the application. If your application is denied, you have thirty days within which to appeal. 

Clearly, it is better not to drink and drive under any circumstances. However, if you do have a conviction and you are in a position to have your record expunged, it is in your best interests to do so. 


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