Each state has the authority to write and enforce its own criminal laws; however, this does not mean that the Federal government cannot make recommendations and push states to make changes. In May, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that states should lower the legal blood-alcohol limit from .08 to .05.

A change in Massachusetts DUI/OUI law would require state action and the issue is not currently on the Massachusetts legislature’s agenda. State senators and local law enforcement have stated that the idea needs further review. Any change will take time, if the past is any guide.

Reduction from .10 to .08

The NTSB has made similar recommendations in the past. Lowering the blood-alcohol limit to the current .08 took almost two decades. The federal government eventually threatened taking away state highway funds in the case of the last holdouts. By 2004, every state had a blood-alcohol limit of .08.

In support of the proposal, the agency referred to many European countries which have the lower .05 limit. However, those who are well above the current legal limit of .08 cause most auto accidents. For this reason many worry that the new focus is misplaced.

Under the proposed limit, a 175-pound man would reach the limit after two standard drinks. A 125-pound woman could reach the limit after one drink. The effects of alcohol vary based on the individual, but the examples show it might be hard to recognize whether it would be legal to drive.

The proposal is a step toward zero tolerance. Meeting friends for dinner and drinks or going to a company happy hour could easily leave many unsuspecting individuals charged with DUIs.

Current Massachusetts limits and penalties

To prove an OUI case, a Massachusetts prosecutor must be able to show the following:

  1. An individual was physically operating a vehicle;
  2. On a public road or a place where the public has access; and
  3. With a blood alcohol level of .08 or greater or was impaired by an intoxicating liquor.

For those under the age of 21, the limit is .02. A chemical test, such a breath or blood test will provide evidence of blood alcohol concentration. After a first offense, a consultation with a Massachusetts DUI defense attorney is one way to identify whether any issues tied to test accuracy exist.

A DUI/DWI/OUI conviction often comes with a jail sentence, fines, court fees and the requirement of an ignition interlock. If you have been charged with one of these offenses, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can review the individual facts of your case and advise on how best to proceed.