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Our Guide to an OUI Charge and If It’s a Misdemeanor or Felony in Massachusetts

If you are arrested for operating under the influence (OUI) in Massachusetts, you may be wondering if it is a misdemeanor or a felony. Many different factors are involved in determining whether you will be charged with one or the other, particularly the circumstances that caused your arrest. Still, it’s crucial to understand the nuances of misdemeanors and felonies to prepare for what’s to come.

Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, it is essential to work with the best lawyers in Boston to ensure that these charges do not negatively impact your life any further. While a misdemeanor is a “lesser” charge, it can still result in future problems that may hamper your access to opportunities. 

Here’s what you need to know about OUIs and the degrees of the charges:

The Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony

The significant difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is that the former comes with less severe punishments than the latter. Getting charged with a misdemeanor in Massachusetts may result in around a year or less in a local or county jail. Misdemeanor trials often do not have a jury present, which means the case usually takes a shorter time than a felony.

Felonies involve longer incarcerations, and the sentences may be delivered in a federal or state prison. They also come with more considerable fines and often involve a jury during the case. As such, felony cases take longer than misdemeanors due to the more expensive penalties.

Getting Charged With a Misdemeanor For OUI

If they arrest you for OUI for the first or second time in Massachusetts, the charges are usually a misdemeanor. Take note that other factors can upgrade the charges, particularly the situation in which you were arrested. However, by themselves, the first two OUI charges are misdemeanors, although Massachusetts is particularly stringent on OUI laws. As such, these charges can escalate depending on your situation, criminal history, the arrest’s details, and others.

For example, if you were arrested for OUI and had a minor under 15 years old present with you in the vehicle, you will be charged with child endangerment. While this is also a misdemeanor, many other factors can affect the outcome, like probation or parole. If you are caught driving without a license or with a suspended license, your final charges may include felonies.

However, if you are arrested for just your first or second OUI charge, and there aren’t any other factors that could upgrade the degree, you will be charged with a misdemeanor OUI. You will have to pay the penalty and face possible jail time and license suspensions. Take note that the penalties increase after the first arrest.

Getting Charged With a Felony For OUI

Meanwhile, if they arrest you for a third, fourth, or even fifth OUI, you will immediately be charged with a felony. Apart from the felony charge, you’ll be subject to mandatory minimum sentences, more expensive fines, longer license suspensions, and a more significant impact on possible future criminal cases with your new history of felony charges.

However, if they arrest you for a sixth OUI, you will never be able to reinstate your license. You will also be prohibited from applying for a hardship license to help you get to and from work or even to the medical treatments you need. When they charge you with a felony, you’ll need to work with the best criminal lawyer in Boston, MA, to minimize the damages as much as possible.


The first two OUI charges are usually misdemeanors, but anything more than that will quickly land you with a felony. Regardless, being charged with either of the two can impact your future and lead to felony charges in other cases, mainly if you are a repeat offender. As such, be sure to get the legal assistance of the best lawyers around to ensure you get proper guidance throughout the process.

The Fernandez Firm is home to top-notch criminal attorneys in Boston who have a wealth of experience in all types of criminal defense. We work to achieve the best possible outcome for our clients in criminal cases. Get a free consultation about your case today by contacting us!