Massachusetts Drugged Driving Laws

Learn about the penalties for drugged or high driving in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts prohibits operating a vehicle while under the influence (OUI) of drugs or alcohol. This prohibition includes prescription medications, street drugs, inhalants, stimulants, depressants, toxic vapors, and just about any substance that can cause impairment. This article will explain how these substances can lead to an impaired driving conviction and the possible penalties.

Level of Drug Impairment That Can Lead to an OUI

Massachusetts's OUI laws prohibit operating or being in control of a vehicle while under the influence. For purposes of the state's OUI laws, a driver is considered under the influence if the substance diminished his or her ability to operate a vehicle

Impairment. Massachusetts does not have a per se limit for consumed substances (similar to the .08% alcohol limit), so a conviction requires proof of actual impairment. At trial, the prosecutor will often use expert testimony, blood test results, and the officer's observations of a driver's field sobriety test performance to prove impairment.

Impairing substances. Massachusetts statutes contain a list of drugs, substances, and inhalants that can lead to an OUI charge. This list includes prescription drugs like Klonopin and Hydrocodone, street drugs like cocaine and marijuana, and even "fumes of any substance having the property of releasing toxic vapors." Holding a valid prescription or medical marijuana card is not a defense to an impaired driving (unless it was unknown that the medication could cause impairment) charge.

Massachusetts OUI Penalties

The penalties for drugged driving are generally the same as those for drunk driving. Massachusetts counts all OUI within the driver's lifetime when calculating prior offenses.

First offense. A first drugged driving offense will result in up to two and one-half years in jail, $500 to $5,000 in fines, and a one-year license revocation. Drivers who are charged with a first offense may be eligible for the state's rehabilitation program. Participants in the two-year program must pay fees, complete treatment and educational courses, and participate in sobriety monitoring. But offenders who successfully complete the program can have the OUI charge dismissed outright.

Second offense. A second drugged driving offense carries 60 days to two and one-half years in jail, $600 to $10,000 in fines, and two years license revocation. The offender must serve at least 30 days in jail before probationary release. A suspended driver may be eligible for restricted driving privileges.

Treatment. The judge can order offenders who are convicted of a drug OUI to complete substance abuse treatment or a drug education program.

Chemical test refusal. Under the state's implied consent laws, a driver can lose driving privileges for unlawfully refusing to submit to a blood or urine test. A driver who refuses a lawful request by a police officer will be suspended for 180 days to five years depending on the number of prior offenses. The driver's vehicle will also be impounded.

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