Massachusetts’s Implied Consent Law and Refusing Alcohol Testing

The requirement to submit to chemical testing when arrested for an OUI and the penalties for a refusal.

As part of an OUI (operating under the influence) investigation, law enforcement normally requests that the driver take a breath or blood test. These tests are intended to determine the amount of drugs or concentration of alcohol (BAC) in the driver's system. Test results often play a big part in the prosecution's case at an OUI trial, so a driver may be tempted to refuse testing in an effort to limit the incriminating evidence. However, the refusal of a lawful testing request will result in separate and serious consequences for the driver.

Implied Consent

Massachusetts's implied consent law states that anyone who operates a vehicle within the state is deemed to have consented to a test of the driver's breath or blood. This implied consent requirement applies only to drivers who have been properly arrested for an OUI.

Consequences of Refusal

License seizure. If a driver refuses to submit to a lawful request for chemical testing, the officer is supposed to immediately seize the driver's license. The arresting officer will then give the driver a notice of suspension and forward a report of refusal to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles (RMV). The notice of suspension will indicate that the suspension is effective immediately but may be contested by submitting a request for a hearing within ten days of issuance.

License suspension. Drivers with no prior OUI convictions generally face a 180-day license suspension for a refusal. Drivers with a prior OUI conviction or who are under 21 years old will be looking at a three-year suspension for a refusal. Drivers who refuse testing and have two prior OUI convictions will be suspended for five years. And a driver with three prior OUI convictions will be suspended for life if he or she unlawfully refuses chemical testing.

Also, a driver who refuses testing and has a prior vehicular manslaughter conviction will be suspended for life. If the prior involved serious bodily injury rather than a death, the driver faces a ten-year suspension on the refusal.

License suspensions related to a chemical test refusal will run consecutively (back-to-back) to any other OUI-related suspension. So, if the driver is convicted of an OUI in court, there will typically be two suspensions to complete. Drivers suspended due to a chemical test refusal are not eligible for a hardship or restricted license.

Impounded. After seizing the driver's license, the arresting officer will also have the driver's vehicle impounded for a minimum of 12 hours.

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