Possessing, Buying, and Selling Alcohol
Massachusetts has a broad set of laws to prevent underage drinking, a popular activity among high school and college students across the country.
In Massachusetts, it is illegal for any person under 21 to possess alcohol, unless the person is with a parent or legal guardian. Thus, a 19-year-old would not violate this law if he were having a glass of wine or beer with his family in their home, but drinking at a bar or party away from his parents would violate the law. An exemption permits 18- to 21-year-olds to carry alcoholic beverages if it is part of their employment.
Violation of the law carries a $50 fine for the first offense and a 90-day suspension of the offender’s driver’s license. In addition to this transportation inconvenience, the conviction could hurt someone’s chances for employment for years.
Of course, individuals under 21 may not buy or attempt to buy alcoholic beverages. The law also forbids altering IDs to buy alcohol or claiming to be 21 or older when someone is actually underage. Further, an underage person may not ask a 21-year-old to buy alcohol. A violation of any of these requirements can result in a $300 fine and a180-day driver’s license suspension.
Similarly, no one may make, possess, or sell false IDs, or use another’s ID, to buy alcoholic beverages.
Massachusetts law also specifically prohibits anyone from selling or providing alcoholic beverages to anyone under 21, regardless of whether the buyer intends to give the alcohol to someone over 21. To comply with this law, owners of restaurants, bars, and private residences must be especially wary of who is drinking on their property. Underage students who throw a party and provide alcohol to other minors may also be charged with violating the law. Punishment for violating this law is strict – the offender can be fined up to $2,000 or face up to one year in prison.
Social Host Liability
Allowing minors to drink on your premises could have significant financial consequences as well. Under a theory called social host liability, if someone provides alcohol to another person to the extent that the person becomes drunk, and then the intoxicated person injures someone, the injured person can sue the individual who provided the alcohol in addition to the person who injured him.
For example, if someone hosts a party, and allows a guest to become clearly drunk, and then the drunken person severely injures someone in a car wreck, the injured person can sue that host. Usually in these cases, the cause of injury is drunk driving. It doesn’t matter whether the guest is under 21 or not – if he or she injures someone as a result of being provided too much alcohol, the host might have to pay a large sum in a lawsuit.
And minors -- not only adults -- may be sued under this law. To avoid these potentially harsh consequences, it is crucial to know who your guests are and monitor their drinking to some extent.
Driving while Intoxicated
Minors are also held to a stricter standard when they are driving. If a minor is driving a car with only a 0.02 blood alcohol content, his or her driver’s license can be suspended. By contrast, people who are 21 and older can drive with a blood alcohol content below 0.08 before they face any legal consequences. Regardless of a driver’s age, if he is arrested for driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater, he faces up to two years in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.
Many people are pulled over and arrested for a Massachusetts OUI. The purpose of this blog post is to inform you of the OUI process and what police are looking for from operating your car to the police station. Before you even get pulled over the police are observing everything about your car. The easiest way for the police to justify pulling your car over is if you car had a broken tail light or expired inspection sticker. The police will also focus on how you on operating the car. Clearly if you are going the wrong direction down a one-way that is clear sign to pull you over. However, even if you don’t make huge operating mistakes with your car, the police may still pull you over for erratic operation.
The police tend to focus on things such as speeding, inability to stay within your lane, and failure to stop at a stop sign or red light as signs erratic operation. When the police pull over a person for erratic operation they are trained to look to see if alcohol is the cause of the erratic operation. When the police approach your vehicle they will look for a series of things to see if you are under the influence of alcohol. First the police will make physical observations of how you look. The police will look at your eyes to see if they are glassy and bloodshot. Then the police try to smell any alcohol on your breath. Next, the police will listen to your speech to see if it is slurred. Finally, the police will ask you if you had anything to drink and how much you had to drink.
The police will also ask you to produce your license and registration. While you do these things, the police will make observations to see if you have any trouble getting these items. The police will try to look to see if you drop your license or hand them a credit card instead. After the initial approach, if the police are suspicious that a person is under the influence, the police will ask you to step out of the car.
During the exit the police will try to see if you are having trouble getting out or bump your head on the roof. The police will also see if you have any problems walking or vomit. The police will also put you through a series of field sobriety tests. If the police you to get out of the car, then you will probably be arrested for an OUI. The police may also ask you to take the portable breathalyzer which is a hand held device. Once the police believe they have enough evidence against you, the police will place you under arrest. Your car will be towed to a lot and you won’t be able to address that issue until you get out of custody.
Once you are arrested, you will be brought back to the police station either in a cruiser or by way of a patrol wagon. At the police station you will go through the booking process. At the booking process, you will have to answer background questions usually with another officer that is working the desk that day. You will be searched and must remove all of your property. The property is kept in a plastic bag and held. You will then be offered a breathalyzer at the station and finger printed. After the booking process is finished, you will be given the chance to make a phone call. You will then need to wait for the bail bondsman to set a bail. If you have enough money in your property the police will actually allow you to post your own bail. If you don’t have enough money to post your own bail, then hopefully you can call someone that does have enough money to post your bail. If no one can bail you out, then you will be brought to court the next day. Hopefully, you aren’t arrested on Friday without any means of posting your own bail. If you are held on Friday, you won’t be going to court until Monday morning. The Massachusetts’ OUI process goes quickly and is quite confusing. For the most part the police won’t answer your questions. It is important that you remain polite, follow instructions and call a lawyer as soon as you can.
Getting a Massachusetts DUI is very serious. Police are more vigilant than ever on the roads. Police are being trained and now look out for signs of DUI during every traffic stop. Police who are called to car accidents look for signs of DUI on the drivers. If the police officer finds that one person may have alcohol on their breath, it is likely that the driver will be arrested. Aside from traffic stops and accidents it is very common for police to set up DUI check points to look for Massachusetts DUI suspects. It should come to no surprise then that more people are now being stopped, arrested and prosecuted for DUI. (picture of road taken by Moyan Brenn
During the holidays you will see an uptick in DUI arrests. Many if not all local and state police have more officers patrol the roads. During Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and New Years Eve police focus on potential DUI drivers even more. The police are even running DUI ads on television to warm potential drivers that they are stepping up DUI patrols in the state. Aside from the holidays, you see the police force increase in DUI enforcement around sporting events. With the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics being so popular, DUI enforcement is high around the Gillette, Fenway and TD Bank North Garden.
Aside from the enforcement of professional sporting events, police also pay special attention to areas where colleges and universities are. You may notice that the police presence in the colleges and universities increase as events go on in those areas. If a person is under the age of 21 is charged with an OUI, the person may face increased criminal penalties and license effects.
All this means that it is important to be careful in order to avoid a Massachusetts DUI. Police are being extremely careful with DUI cases. Many police officers rather arrest a person they suspect been drinking than risking that person getting into a car accident later on in the night. With DUI enforcement being taken so seriously in Massachusetts, it doesn’t make any sense to risk drinking and driving. You may be tempted to save a few dollars and not take a cab, but in the end a DUI case can cost you thousands of dollars. Besides the criminal and license issues, it is even more important that you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else by making a bad decision.