What is a Cahill Disposition in MA OUI

A Cahill disposition is a 2nd Lifetime 1st Offense. A standard true OUI 2nd Offense in Massachusetts requires a mandatory two (2) year loss of license from the sentencing Court and imposition of one of two alternative mandatory sentences, either: 14 days inpatient at a secure locked down hospital treatment center, followed by one (1) year aftercare and a two (2) year probation period, or sixty (60) days in the House of Correction with two a two (2) year probation period. The vast majority of Judges in Massachusetts will impose the hospitalization/treatment option over the jail option. However, a 2nd offense, like a 1st offense, is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 2 ½ year in the House of Correction. If there was a breath test refusal at the time of the OUI 2nd arrest a three (3) year CTR is imposed by the RMV and it cannot run concurrently with the two (2) year OUI suspension.

A driver/defendant can qualify for a Cahill disposition, at the discretion of the sentencing Court, if they have only one (1) lifetime prior offense, and the prior offense (CWOF or Guilty) is more than ten (10) years before the OUI 2nd arrest date. In a Cahill sentence, the driver/defendant receives the typical 1st offense disposition, i.e. one (1) year probation, outpatient alcohol education program, standard fees and fines and a loss of license as short as forty-five (45) days. This drastically shortens the Court ordered OUI license suspension and avoids the mandatory hospitalization or jail sentence. A Cahill sentence also allows for the driver to apply for an immediate hardship license from the RMV, as they would when sentenced on a true OUI 1st offense. However, the OUI suspension is on and after any CTR suspension, i.e. three (3) year CTR plus forty-five (45) days. Lastly, any lifetime 2nd offender, regardless of whether it is a true 2nd or Cahill, must install and maintain the Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for the entire period of a hardship license plus two (2) additional years.

In my experience, a Cahill disposition is almost always obtainable on a plea disposition before trial. If a trial on an OUI 2nd Offense results in a guilty finding, even when the prior is more then ten (10) years old, a true 2nd offense sentence would likely follow, rather than a discretionary Cahill disposition from the Court. A Cahill disposition can also be continued without a finding (CWOF) but it is not as routine as on a OUI 1st offense..

What is a CWOF disposition in MA OUI

The Massachusetts Drunk Driving Law, oftentimes referred to as Melanie’s Law, M.G.L. Chapter 90, section 24 includes a lifetime look back provision for establishing prior offenses to charge a driver as a subsequent repeat offender. Melanie was a child killed by a drunk driver who had a long history of drunk driving convictions, but all of them were outside the ten (10) year lookback that existed at the time of his fatal OUI crash with Melanie.

The Massachusetts law now allows State Prosecutors, Courts and the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to use any prior drunk driving disposition, from any jurisdiction, at any time during your lifetime to calculate a subsequent offense. In Massachusetts, the statute only goes up to 5th Offense. I had a prior case where it was my client’s eleventh (11th) lifetime OUI charge, but he could only be prosecuted as a 5th offender. 3rd, 4th and 5th offenses in Massachusetts are felonies, with potential prison sentences up to five (5) years and license revocations of eight (8), ten (10) and lifetime, respectively. 1st and 2nd offenses are misdemeanors.

Administrative suspensions for Chemical Test Refusals (CTR) at the time of arrest through the RMV, also use the lifetime lookback to determine the length of the CTR. They are 180 days with no prior OUI dispositions, three (3) years with one lifetime prior OUI, five (5) years with two lifetime prior OUIs, and a lifetime suspension through the RMV for a chemical test refusal with three (3) prior OUI dispositions. The only way to vacate a Chemical Test Refusal is by a Court Order following a not guilty verdict at trial on the underlying OUI charge or an outright dismissal of the OUI charge. A continuance without a finding (CWOF) disposition counts the same as a guilty finding for lifetime lookback provisions, both criminal and administratively for a CTR suspension.

There are approximately ten thousand (10,000) OUI 1st offense arrests in Massachusetts each year. Approximately 94% of these cases are resolved by way of a plea referred to as a “continuance without a finding” (CWOF). In this disposition the driver/defendant admits that the facts presented to the Court by the Prosecutor/Police at a plea hearing are sufficient to prove guilt on the OUI charge at a trial. The Judge is then asked to accept the admission, but to continue the matter without a finding of guilt entering, typically for a period of one (1) year. During the one (1) year the case is left open, the defendant is on a period of probation, pays mandatory fees/fines to the Court, suffers a loss of license, typically forty-five (45) days, but sometimes as long as ninety (90) days, and must complete the outpatient alcohol education program. A defendant waives all of his/her constitutional rights to trial with this plea, and they can be found guilty and sentenced up to 2 ½ years in jail, the maximum potential penalty, if there is a violation of the probation terms. A person on Probation for OUI cannot leave the Commonwealth without the permission of the Court and Probation Department. At the end of the one (1) year period of probation, if all conditions are met, the charge is dismissed without a conviction and the case is closed. This is not a criminal conviction under Massachusetts Law.

However, the CWOF disposition counts as an 1st OUI Offense forever, under the lifetime lookback provisions of Melanie’s Law. If a person goes to trial and is convicted of an OUI 1s Offense, the sentence provisions set forth above are the same, but a record of the misdemeanor conviction exists. Both outcomes count forever as a first offense because Melanie’s Law defines a prior OUI offense as a guilty finding or an “assignment to an alcohol education course by a Court.” The CWOF always comes with mandatory assignment to the alcohol education program. Further, the Federal Government does not distinguish between a CWOF and a Guilty finding. The Canadian government will exclude a person from entry to Canada for ten (10) years if they have a CWOF disposition on a MA OUI charge. A CWOF

disposition is not supposed to be disclosed on a C.O.R.I. check, but many potential employers, including schools, hospitals and law enforcement will see it. My experience is that Federal Agencies also see the CWOF on a background check.

A driver is not allowed to apply for a hardship license in Massachusetts through the RMV until they are sentenced by the Court on the OUI offense, on probation and enrolled in the alcohol education program. There is no right to a hardship during an administrative suspension through the RMV (CTR) or Per se (>.08 breath test admin RMV suspension) until the person is sentenced by the Court on the OUI.

In my practice, I try to instill in clients the realization that the CWOF is a 1st Offense OUI for the rest of their lives. If they want to plead out to the CWOF they can hire any lawyer they want, because the law does not allow for deviation from the minimum mandatory penalty provisions of Melanie’s Law.

Year in Review 2019

2019 was another busy year at Bowser Law for OUI/DWI defense in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and now Maine. Bowser Law concluded 138 Drunk Driving Defense cases in these three states in 2019.

85 DWI cases in New Hampshire;
49 OUI cases in Massachusetts;
4 OUI cases in Maine;

Some interesting numbers from these totals:
76 % of the total cases were resolved with a not guilty verdict, outright dismissal, or a negotiated plea to a lesser OUI/DWI offense.

15 Jury Trials with 8 not guilty verdicts.
17 Bench Trials with 13 not guilty verdicts.

In New Hampshire, where Prosecutors are allowed to negotiate with the defense for the outright dismissal of the DWI/DUI charge, oftentimes in return for a plea to a lesser civil infraction of Reckless Driving or Negligent Driving, this occurred in 43 out of 85 total New Hampshire cases. These types of dispositions are earned through knowledge, experience, preparation, research and the willingness to challenge the State’s case, even if that means losing an administrative license suspension (ALS) at the DMV in order to prepare a better defense of the DWI criminal charge. This type of non DWI outcome is incredibly important for many Massachusetts residents facing a NH DWI charge, where the collateral administrative consequence in Massachusetts imposed by the MA RMV under the Lifetime Lookback provisions of Melanie’s Law is far worse than any penalty imposed by the NH Court on the DWI. The majority of Bowser Law’s NH DWI clients are Massachusetts residents, many of whom are dealing with at least one prior OUI offense under Melanie’s Law.

Where a plea was voluntarily negotiated and entered to a DWI offense in 33 NH cases, 12 were the result of an Aggravated DWI being reduced to DWI 1st to avoid mandatory jail and extended license loss with an ignition interlock device upon restoration. An additional 12 cases were originally charged as a subsequent offense (2nd/3rd or 4th offenses) but were reduced to a lesser DWI charge and other related motor vehicle, misdemeanor of felony charges were dismissed as part of the plea negotiations.

In Massachusetts the defense is almost entirely limited to pleading to the OUI offense as charged or proceeding to trial. In 49 MA OUI cases, a voluntary plea was entered in 22 cases. 6 of those 22 pleas resulted in a 1st offense Cahill disposition, where the complaint charged OUI 2nd. One was an OUI 4th felony complaint, resolved by plea to a misdemeanor OUI 2nd. 15 pleas resulted in a continuance without a finding (C.W.O.F.) on an OUI 1st complaint. Many of these dispositions were entered for New Hampshire residents facing the MA OUI charge, to allow them to retain their valid New Hampshire licenses. This year included a critically important appeal in NH related to the NH DMV’s treatment of a MA OUI C.W.O.F. disposition. It was a Bowser Law client.

27 of the original 49 Massachusetts OUI cases proceeded to bench or jury trial or a decision on complaint applications to the clerk/magistrate (2). 21 out of 27 cases resulted in a not guilty verdict or outright dismissal of the OUI charge. The majority of these cases involved subsequent offenses under Melanie’s Law Lifetime Lookback provisions with mandatory jail, felony conviction, and extended license loss hanging in the balance.

In Maine, 1 of the 4 OUI cases resulted in a plea to a lesser offense of Reckless Driving, which was certainly important to the Massachusetts resident. The other 3 matters were resolved by plea to an OUI 1st charge, where the complaints were amended to remove mandatory jail sentences for prior offenses, elevated breath test results >.15, or refusal of the chemical test. The Maine OUI Defense practice continues to grow, especially among residents of Massachusetts and New Hampshire struggling to understand the reciprocity issues at home.

Significantly, Attorney Bowser continues to be a leading practitioner in the area of reciprocity license/privilege suspension issues between his three (3) states of practice: Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. If you are facing a drunk driving charge in any of these three (3) jurisdictions please call our office to schedule an initial free consultation. A great defense travels, and plays well anywhere.

Why should I fight my OUI Case?

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts prosecutes OUI cases very aggressively. Depending on your prior driving record, if you are convicted, you could go to jail and face a long license suspension.

When weighing your options, you must also understand some of the reasons why you shouldn’t give up the legal fight. While hiring a good attorney can be costly, those costs are much less than the long term cost of an OUI conviction.

Here are five reasons why you should fight your OUI case.

OUI Cases Can be Won

An OUI arrest is not an automatic conviction. In the hands of a qualified OUI attorney, cases can be won. The Commonwealth will have to prove your impairment and prove that their evidence is up to scientific standards. They will have to prove that the police officers followed procedures correctly. If they can’t, this may be grounds to have your case dismissed or your charges reduced. Attorney Mike Bowser has a stellar record in OUI cases. Take one look at what he did for clients in 2018.

You Don’t want to go to Jail

Depending on the details of your case and your criminal history, you could be facing real jail time if convicted. Time in jail is time away from your family and work. It will add a stigma to you in the minds of anyone who finds out and in the age of social media, it is very easy for news to spread. Preserving your freedom should be enough reason to fight these charges.

You want to Drive

Driving is a necessary part of our lives. If your licenses gets suspended, how will you get to work and continue to manage your daily life? Hiring taxis and rideshares can be expensive and friends are usually unreliable. To stay on the road and keep your job, you need to fight these charges.

You Don’t want to Trigger Higher Insurance Rates

Aside from the penalties that the court imposes, one major consequence of an OUI conviction is higher insurance rates. In some cases, depending on your driving history, insurance companies may refuse you coverage altogether. These higher rates add up fast and the way insurance companies work, you can expect them to never come down to your previous lower rate.

You Don’t want this on your Criminal Record

If you get convicted of an OUI, it will show up on your criminal record forever. Potential employers will see it, as will anyone who does a quick background check. This would not only affect your professional life, but can also affect your personal life. You may lose out on better employment because people will judge you and see you as an irresponsible risk.

If you have been charged with an OUI, please call 888-414-9202 today for your free case consultation. Your case deserves an aggressive defense.