Many motorists have made the mistake of operating under the influence (OUI). Yet, they often learn their lesson after their first or second offense. If you’ve received charges for a third, fourth or fifth OUI, you will likely worry about the penalties you could face. Not only will they be serious, your offense will qualify as a felony under Massachusetts law.

Differences between misdemeanor and felony offenses

A first or second OUI offense is a misdemeanor in Massachusetts. Yet, once you commit your third OUI offense, you will receive felony charges instead. This will happen no matter the time between your second and third offenses because Massachusetts observes a lifetime look back period.

In Massachusetts, first time – and some second time – OUI offenders can resolve their case through an alternative disposition. Called 24D, it can help you avoid a guilty plea if you complete probation and an alcohol education program. Participating in 24D may help you avoid jail, too. Upon receiving your third OUI, you lose eligibility for 24D, and you will have to spend at least 150 days in jail. You will also have to pay a fine of up to $15,000, and you could lose your license for up to 8 years. Once you serve two years of your license suspension, you may be able to regain limited driving privileges – like going to work or school – with a hardship license. If you do, you must install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle for at least two years.

Penalties for additional offenses

If you have received charges for your fourth OUI, you will spend at least one year in jail if convicted. You may also have to pay a fine of up to $25,000, and you could lose your license for up to 10 years. You will also have to serve at least five years of your license suspension before you become eligible for a hardship license. Yet, if you have received charges for your fifth OUI, your penalties will stiffen. You will spend at least two years in jail, and you may also have to pay a fine of up to $25,000. And your license will receive a lifetime revocation, rather than a suspension.

Once you have received your third, fourth or fifth OUI, you will need to take steps to protect your driving privileges. By seeking legal help, you can determine a defense that reflects your situation.