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Massachusetts G.L.c. 90, § 24 (1): Operating Under the Influence

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90, section 24 governs a wide variety of motor vehicle related criminal offenses. One of the most common motor vehicle related charges under this statute is section 24(1), charging a person with operating under the influence of intoxicating substance.

The relevant portion of the statute defines this offense as follows:

“Whoever, upon any way or in any place to which the public has a right of access, or upon any way or in any place to which members of the public have access as invitees or licensees, operates a motor vehicle with a percentage, by weight, of alcohol in their blood of eight one-hundredths or greater, or while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, or of marijuana, narcotic drugs, depressants or stimulant substances, all as defined in section one of chapter ninety-four C, or while under the influence from smelling or inhaling the fumes of any substance having the property of releasing toxic vapors as defined in section 18 of chapter 270…”

As the statute makes clear, a person may be charged under this section for operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Whether the intoxicating substance is thought to be drugs or alcohol such a prosecution will require proof of several similar essential elements.

The government will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. That the defendant operated a motor vehicle;
  2. That this operation occurred on a public way, or in a place where members of the public have access; and
  3. Finally, for a prosecution charging OUI-liquor, the government must prove that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol; Similarly, for a prosecution charging OUI-drugs, the government must prove that the defendant was under the influence of drugs; specifically, marijuana, narcotics, depressants or stimulants as defined by the statute.

Essential to the prosecution of a charge under this section is that the defendant must be “under the influence” of drugs or alcohol. Simply because a person has consumed a substance, whether it be drugs or alcohol does not mean that they are under the influence. A person is considered to be under the influence if he/she has consumed enough of that substance (drugs or alcohol) that it reduces the ability to drive safely.

Although the government is not required to prove that the defendant actually operated in an unsafe or erratic manner, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s ability to operate in a safe manner had been impaired.


A person convicted under this statute of operating under the influence of an intoxicating substance may, for a first offense, face a penalty of imprisonment in the house of correction for up to 2 ½ years, or by a fine of not less then $500 nor more then $5,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

A person convicted of subsequent offenses may be subject to harsher penalties.

If convicted of a second offense under this section a person may face imprisonment in the house of correction for not less than 60 days nor more than 2 ½ years, or by a fine of not less than $600 nor more than $10,000, or both such fine and imprisonment. A person sentenced to imprisonment will serve a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days.

If convicted of a third offense, a person may be punished by imprisonment in the house of correction for not less than 180 days nor more then 2 ½ years, or by imprisonment in state prison for not less than 2 ½ years nor more then 5 years; any person sentence to imprisonment under this section will serve a mandatory minimum sentence of 150 days. A fine of $1,000 up to $15,000 will also be imposed upon conviction of a third offense under this section.

All convictions, pleas or admissions under this section will be subject to a variety of statutory fines and fees.

Defenses to Charges of Operating Under the Influence

Experienced criminal defense attorneys will be able to help you explore all options for defenses and favorable resolutions to motor vehicle related charges, including a charge of operating under the influence. Often a defense to such a charge may rely on challenging the evidence of the defendant’s impairment. However in certain cases where there may have been an accident, independent witnesses or video footage such challenges can be an uphill battle. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you craft the best defenses to these charges and help you to obtain a favorable disposition in OUI cases.

Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer 617-263-6800

If you or someone you know has been charged with operating under the influence in Massachusetts, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, P.C. Attorney Neyman has multiple decades of experience defending those who have been accused of such offenses in Boston and all throughout Massachusetts. He is an aggressive and smart attorney who is relentless in protecting the rights of his clients. You can reach Attorney Neyman by calling 617-263-6800 or by sending him an email. He offers free and confidential initial consultations, which he will schedule at your convenience.

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