In Massachusetts, you cannot be charged with operating under the influence on private property. However, the definition of private property may not be what you think it is.
What Massachusetts OUI Law Says
The Massachusetts OUI law is found in Title XIV, Chapter 90, Section 24. The law applies to the following situation:
“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…”
Invitees and licensees are concepts from premises liability law:
- Invitees are people who have been asked to come onto the property. They are usually customers of a business.
- Licensees are visiting a non-business establishment, often for social reasons.
Operating a motor vehicle means that the driver did something that may set the vehicle in motion, such as manipulating some mechanical or electrical part of the vehicle.
Your Own Personal Property Would Not Be Covered by the Law
As you can see, the law expressly excludes someone’s own private property, to which the public does not have access. Presumably, this would include getting into a car under the influence in your own driveway or someone else’s. Your own driveway would not be considered a “way” within the meaning of the law.
The public does not have a right to access your private property. If they did, they would be considered a trespasser and would be breaking the law. Thus, you cannot be arrested or OUI until you actually pull out of your driveway onto the road.
You Can Be Charged for OUI in a Business Parking Lot
Let’s say that you are at a bar and start your engine in the parking lot. Under the usual legal definition of private property, you might not be breaking the law. According to the Massachusetts statute, you could be charged with OUI because the term “private property” depends on whether the public has access.
If you are in a business parking lot, the public has access to it, and they would be considered licensees or invitees. Thus, the public way requirement is satisfied. Conversely, if your car is running in a private parking lot with clear no trespass signs, you may prevail on the issue of public way at trial or on a Motion to Dismiss.
If police pulled you over on the road on suspicion of OUI, and you pulled into someone’s driveway, they can arrest you for OUI because the alleged offense occurred on a road where the public had access, and you only pulled into the driveway once police stopped you.
Police Can Arrest You on Private Property for an OUI that Happened Elsewhere
Police can still arrest you on your own property for an OUI. If they have probable cause to believe that you committed an OUI offense on a public road, they can follow you to your own property. Depending on the exigency of the situation, they may need an arrest warrant.
However, police may try to arrest you without a warrant based on probable cause and the possibility that they may need to act in an emergency or to prevent flight.
If the police have arrested you illegally for OUI, they may be unable to obtain a conviction. Your lawyer would review the facts of your arrest to see if it was legal. If it was not, they might file a motion to have the charges dismissed or evidence suppressed.
An Attorney Could Review Your Situation and Your Legal Options
Massachusetts OUI law can be complex. So much depends on the exact wording of the statute and the facts of your situation. Not everything is as cut-and-dry as it may seem (or as the prosecutor would lead you to believe).
You should always have an attorney review your case once you have been arrested so that you can know your legal options. OUI can have serious consequences for you, including potential jail time and the loss of your license.
Call a New Bedford OUI Attorney
If you have been charged with OUI, you need legal help from an experienced attorney today. There is a range of outcomes in each case, and McCormack Law will work for you to obtain the best possible legal outcome for your own situation.
We offer free initial consultations. To schedule one, you can call us today (508) 252-8542 or message us online.
Massachusetts OUI FAQs
What is the penalty for a first OUI conviction in Massachusetts?
While most first offense cases result in either probation of a fine, There is a potential jail sentence of up to 2/12 and the loss of your license for one year.
What are some defenses to an OUI charge?
You can counter that the Breathalyzer test that you were administered was flawed or that your arrest in the first place was illegal.
Will my case go to trial?
Only if you choose to fight the charges. Many OUI cases will end in a plea bargain, and your lawyer would work to get you the best possible deal with the prosecutor.