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What’s the difference between OUI and DUI, in Massachusetts?

On Behalf of | Apr 20, 2016 | Criminal Defense, DUI

Ever wonder what the difference is between an OUI (operating under the influence) charge and a DUI (driving under the influence) charge? Truth be told, there isn’t much difference at all. It just so happens that Massachusetts uses the OUI standard, whereas other states use the DUI standard.

There is one distinction that you should be made aware of, however. With the OUI standard, drivers in Fall River and throughout Bristol County can be charged if the keys are in the ignition, even if the operator pulled off the road.

In states with DWI laws, this same impaired driver may not be charged if he or she pulled off the road but left the keys in the ignition. That’s because for a DWI charge to stick, the driver must actually be driving.

As an interesting note, however, in an OUI state (like Massachusetts) removing the key from the ignition before pulling over to sleep off a buzz might make all the difference in the world, as without the key being in the ignition, no one is technically operating the vehicle.

Why does Massachusetts use the stricter OUI law?

As a driver in Massachusetts, you might be frustrated that the Bay State uses a more encompassing law such as the OUI standard. But here’s why we use this standard:

In an effort to curtail repeat drunk-driver offenders, Melanie’s Law was enacted in 2005. The law was named after 13-year-old Melanie Powell of Marshfield, MA, who was killed in an accident caused by a repeat offender in 2003.

What is Melanie’s Law?

Melanie’s Law strengthens the penalties for repeat drunk drivers and has led Massachusetts to use a more encompassing OUI standard. On a positive note, statistics show that the roads have been safer under Melanie’s Law. Some 4,000 Massachusetts drivers with a history of driving drunk are unable to start their cars without first blowing a clean, sober breath into a tube to unlock their ignition.

What should you do if you face OUI charges in Massachusetts?

The moment you realize you’re facing OUI charges, it’s imperative that you contact an experienced OUI defense attorney in Greater Fall River. There are so many components to factor in during an OUI charge, which may help to lessen your charges or eliminate them completely.

For example, was there enough justification for the officers to pull you over to begin with? Was there reasonable cause to ask you to take a Breathalyzer test? When was the Breathalyzer test last calibrated? What type of history of stops does your arresting officer have that might hint at profiling?

These questions are asked, and answered, by the experienced legal team at Sabra & Aspden. Learn more about how we can help you fight your OUI case – and get a free case evaluation – by calling us today at 508-286-7122, visiting us online at, or coming down to our Somerset, MA office, located at 1026 County Street.