Prosecutors often like to have a fallback or a backup when they charge someone with a crime. For example, people who are facing murder charges are also charged with weapons offenses.
When prosecutors charge a Massachusetts driver with OUI, they will often file negligent driving charges against them. The driver will also need to contend with an additional set of charges. Even if the defendant is not convicted of a more serious charge, the jury may still convict the defendant of something, even if it is a lesser charge.
If you are charged with OUI and negligent driving, your primary focus should be dealing with the potential drunk driving conviction. An OUI will have a far more significant effect on your life, with mandatory penalties. The criminal record you carry from an OUI conviction will carry a greater stigma that can impact your career and other parts of your life.
Is Negligent Driving Less Serious Than an OUI Charge?
On its own, a negligent driving conviction will not send you to jail. There is a fine and a sixty-day loss of license when you are convicted of the offense in Massachusetts. While a driver’s license suspension is inconvenient, the consequences are not as severe as an OUI conviction.
You may even plead guilty in the negligent driving case and only be ordered to pay court costs, depending on the prosecutor involved and your lawyer’s ability to negotiate a deal.
If you are convicted of OUI, that will carry a more severe punishment. In many cases, the prosecutor will even drop the negligent driving charge if you plead guilty to OUI. Even if you are convicted of both offenses, your negligent driving penalty will usually run concurrently with the OUI penalties.
Can Prosecutors Charge Both OUI and Negligent Driving Offenses at the Same Time?
When a prosecutor charges both offenses simultaneously, they are trying to give themselves options. In many cases, the person pulled over for suspicion of OUI has been driving badly, causing the police officer to take notice. The prosecutor wants to win some conviction in the case.
If they cannot prove the elements of OUI, there is always the option for the jury to convict you for negligent driving. If you can cast doubt on the prosecutor’s belief that you were drunk, they may be willing to allow you to plead down to a negligent driving charge, which will carry a lower penalty.
One example is when you are driving under the influence of prescription medications. You are not intoxicated, but the prosecutor can still charge you with some offense. You may even be offered a Continuance Without a Finding, which will not count as a conviction and may not result in probation.
Penalties for OUI in Massachusetts
In contrast, an OUI can carry the following stiffer penalties:
- Prison time up to 2 ½ years
- A fine of up to $5,000
- License suspension of up to one year
- Inability to apply for a hardship license for three months
The penalties can escalate on a subsequent offense or if there are aggravating factors. Accordingly, you should be far more worried about the OUI charges.
Call a New Bedford OUI Defense Lawyer Today
If you have been charged with OUI, you cannot afford to take any chances. The consequences are too great to leave anything to chance. You should hire an experienced attorney who can help you understand your legal options and navigate the criminal justice system.
Negligent Driving and OUI FAQs
Can I lose my license for a negligent driving conviction?
There is a possibility that you can lose your license for up to 60 days at the discretion of the judge.
Can an attorney negotiate with the prosecutor on a negligent driving charge?
Yes. A range of outcomes are up for discussion as part of a plea bargain.
Can I handle my own OUI case?
There is no legal requirement for a lawyer, but you are facing criminal charges and need to protect your legal rights accordingly.