MA OUI Under 21  Laws

underage dui in massachusettsMassachusetts laws impose serious penalties upon underage drivers for operating under the influence of alcohol. If you are under 21 and charged with DUI / OUI, you face harsh and costly punishments that include driver’s license suspensions, fines, fees and possible jail time.

What happens when you get a DUI under 21 in Massachusetts?

If you or a family member under age 21 have been charged with DUI, here is what you should be aware of now regarding the underage DUI laws in Massachusetts:

What You Need To Know Now

  • There are 2 sets of laws in every DUI case: (1) Administrative laws and penalties sanctioned by the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and (2) Criminal laws and punishments determined in criminal court.
  • RMV Zero Tolerance laws mean your license will be immediately suspended for registering as little as .02% blood-alcohol content (BAC) on a DUI blood test or breathalyzer.
  • Criminal DUI laws apply to under 21 drivers the same as for those 21 and over. A conviction includes possible jail time of up to 2 ½ years on a first DUI.
  • Drivers under the legal drinking age contend with two blood-alcohol numbers: .02 BAC for RMV suspensions and .08 for the criminal court process.
  • RMV suspension periods vary greatly depending upon any prior DUIs, your age and whether you refused the breathalyzer test.
  • There are options to shorten your Driver’s License suspension and regain your driving privileges. A driver license lawyer experienced in filing RMV suspension appeals can be very beneficial.
  • Failing the breathalyzer test does not mean your case can’t be won. Remember, the criminal court standard is .08 for all drivers and many cases never focus on age.
  • You will need the advice and expertise of an experienced under 21 DUI lawyer to obtain the best options and outcomes available in both the criminal and administrative cases. An attorney who does not concentrate in DUI defense is normally not experienced enough to secure the best results possible.
CHEMICAL TEST REFUSAL CASES  If you fight your underage DUI and win in criminal court, your attorney can petition the judge to dismiss the Refusal Suspension sanctioned by the Registry. Unless so ordered by the court, the RMV will not automatically vacate the 3-year driver’s license suspension for refusing the blood or breathalyzer test.


Massachusetts General Laws sets the legal limit for blood-alcohol levels while driving at .08% for all drivers. Additionally, under the state’s Zero Tolerance policy, the law sets a legal limit for blood alcohol content at .02% if you are under the legal drinking age of 21.

How the dual legal limits for blood alcohol work

As stated, the legal alcohol limit is .08 in criminal court for all drivers. If a driver is 21 or older, there’s a legal inference of sober operation at BAC levels of .05 or less.

But underage drivers do not enjoy the sober operator inference. Therefore, even a bac of .05 can be used by the prosecutor. However, it must be presented with other evidence, such as Field Sobriety Tests and police officer testimony.

IMPORTANT Due to the breathalyzer problems in Massachusetts, OUI evidence requires expert testimony for all breath alcohol evidence submitted by the state. Many districts will not use it at all. Consult with us to discover how your case may benefit!


Getting a DUI under 21 also means a blood-alcohol level of just .02% will trigger administrative penalties that are sanctioned through the RMV under zero tolerance laws. Police must take your license or permit and immediately suspend your driving privileges until further notice.

But the breathalyzer result of .02 cannot be used in and of itself (Per Se) to prove DUI in the criminal court case.

DUI Under 21 Consequences – Criminal Case

In order to reach a guilty verdict on a blood-alcohol level alone, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your BAC was .08% or higher.

If the state proceeds without a .08 or higher result, they must also prove beyond doubt that you were alcohol impaired and your driving was diminished. This is no easy feat, when challenged.

Should you take your case to trial, remember that a jury of your peers determines if the evidence is strong enough to establish the facts for a finding of guilty -Not the prosecuting attorney or their tests.

Can I Go to Jail?

Yes. While your defense lawyer will do everything in their power to avoid a jail sentence, it is a criminal penalty, even for underage first DUI offenders. A conviction and possible jail time are the top reasons why fighting the charges should always be fully explored.

DUI First Offense MA

Penalties if Convicted for a First DUI:

  • Up to 2 ½ years in jail
  • One year driver’s license suspension
  • A fine from $500 to $5,000
  • Misdemeanor on your permanent record
  • Probation up to one year

Your DUI lawyer may be able to negotiate a pretrial diversion with the prosecutor that prevents a criminal complaint from becoming a permanent record. Time is essential to secure diversion and other pretrial agreements.

⚖ Visit our case results page if you would like to read about some of the DUI cases won by Attorney Greg Oberhauser.  

Can my breathalyzer test be challenged and thrown out?

YES. I have successfully challenged the Breath Test machine as to its accuracy and reliability. In one of my cases, a result of .34 was thrown out because requirements were not followed. Furthermore, I consulted on the Commonwealth v. Ananias and Others case, so I know what flaws to look for.

The problems with bad breathalyzer machine maintenance at the state’s Office of Alcohol Testing that our case uncovered means every breath test should be challenged. At the very least, everyone who operated the machine for your BT should be checked out for proper training and certification.

DUI cases are winnable even if you failed a breathalyzer test. In fact, back in 2008 we began to ask for the Source Code of the Alcotest 7110 to see if the breath test machine was or is a reliable machine in testing the alcohol content of suspected DUI/OUI clients.

I’ve continued the fight alongside other OUI defense lawyers in Massachusetts challenge the Alcotest 9510 machine’s reliability as evidence in DUI cases.  The Result: Thousands of cases are being dismissed all across the state as breath tests are tossed out! Read Full details here.

DUI Under 21 Consequences – RMV Case

Penalties are sanctioned by the RMV for refusing a test or failing a breathalyzer test at .02% and above.

Your driving privileges are immediately suspended for a minimum of 30 days, or until the criminal complaint is resolved – whichever comes first. The next suspension period depends on what happens in court.

In a typical case, you will lose your license for a total of 210 days. Other junior operator suspensions may apply, but can be shortened by early enrollment in alcohol education programs.

Breathalyzer Refusal Penalties for Minors

Drivers 18 – 21:     3 years + 180 days for one or no prior DUIs.

Drivers under 18:   3 years + one year for one or no prior DUIs.

For a first DUI, the extra junior operator suspension can be waived (18 – 21) or reduced to 6 months (under 18) upon enrollment into an approved alcohol education program.

It is possible to contest your refusal in court and have the refusal charge dismissed. If you fight and win your DUI case, it is possible to get out of the RMV suspension entirely.

Getting a DUI at 17 

If you are 16 ½ to 18 years old when arrested or charged with a DUI, you face longer license suspension periods for failing a breathalyzer at .02% or above. All under 21 drivers must take alcohol education classes.

The Youth Alcohol Program (YAP) Suspension will be added on to your criminal suspension upon a conviction, but only if you were not already assigned to a YAP. Offenders age 16 ½, 17 and under 18 will have to serve an extra 6-month suspension.

Drivers under 18:  One year YAP suspension. Can be reduced to 6 months through the 24D program.

Drivers Age 18 – 20:  6 month YAP suspension. Can be waived by enrollment in the 24D Driver Alcohol Education program.

Can I Get a Hardship Driver’s License After a DUI If I’m Under 21?

If you failed a chemical breathalyzer or blood test and want to plead guilty or admit to sufficient facts (CWOF deal,) you are eligible to apply for a hardship driver’s license.

You need to go through a hearing process at the RMV where you will need a suspended license attorney specifically experienced with underage DUI hearings to advocate on your behalf.

RMV hearing officers are often weary of granting conditional licenses to minors charged with DUI, so preparation and proper representation is key.

If you refused to take a blood or breath alcohol test, you cannot get a hardship license to cover the refusal suspension period.


Oberhauser Law works with parents fighting to protect their child’s future from the impact of a DUI under 21. I meet and talk with families about all of their best options; from a plea deal or continuance to taking the case to trial.

I can answer all of your questions and explain what to expect during each step of the criminal and administrative processes.

For parents of teens and young adults, avoiding a DUI conviction is the top priority. The consequences of getting a DUI under 21 are long-lasting and a conviction can seriously limit a child’s education and career opportunities.

The good news is that you do not have to settle for the worst case scenario. Many parents have turned to Oberhauser Law because I’ve proven time and again that underage DUI cases can be won. Find out more about how I do it here.

Call or contact me to schedule a free consultation and review of your case.