Board Certified OUI attorney Mike Bowser of Bowser Law discusses how to choose a lawyer for OUI defense in MA and what you can expect during the legal process.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Mike Bowser, a Board Certified DUI defense lawyer practicing in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. And today, we’re talking about choosing a lawyer for OUI defense in Massachusetts. Welcome, Mike.
Mike Bowser: Good morning. How are you?
What to Expect After an OUI Arrest in Massachusetts
John: Great. Thanks. So, Mike, what can you expect following an OUI arrest in Massachusetts? And then, how you go about finding and choosing a lawyer for OUI defense?
Mike: Sure. Most OUI arrests in Massachusetts, and when I say most, the vast majority of OUI arrest are first offenses. The person being arrested has little or no prior criminal record. Probably has never been arrested before. In following an OUI arrest, you are brought to a police station or a barracks. If there is a booking process, you may or may not submit to a breath test.
But typically, a bail commissioner would be brought into that booking area within [an] hour or two after your arrest, and they’ll go through your record if you have any, where you live, where you work, those types of questions, and you’ll be released on your personal recognizance. And personal recognizance just means you’re released on your promise to appear in court.
In Massachusetts, if you’re arrested on a weeknight, you’re going to be appearing in court most often the next morning, the next morning being the first available court date for your arraignment. If it’s a weekend, then you can expect to be given a date to appear the following Monday or Tuesday if you’re arrested over the course of the weekend.
The exception to that rule is if there’s an extensive record; it might be your third or fourth offense. Under Melanie’s Law and a lifetime look back, then they may set a cash bail and require that you come up with some sum of money before you are released from the police custody. And again, that’s typically only when you have an extensive record or some type of long criminal background.
John: So you’re not spending the night in jail than usually?
Mike: Typically not. Usually, if the arrest occurs between 11 at night, 10 at night, even until one or two in the morning, a bail commissioner will be called out. You pay them a $40 fee and they will release you on personal recognizance with instructions to appear in court the next day. If it’s getting very close or into the morning hours where it’s six, seven o’clock in the morning already, a lot of the police departments will just hold you and then, bring you to court directly the next morning where you would be held in custody then brought to the courthouse the next day.
When to Contact a Lawyer for OUI Defense in MA
John: Is it important to call your attorney right from the police station or from jail or immediately after your released, the first thing you should do is get on the phone to your attorney?
Mike: In Massachusetts, the arraignment process the next day in court is standardized. Meaning when you go to court the next day, you check into the probation department. You show them the piece of paper that the bail commissioner gave you. That lets the probation department know who you are and what the charges are. And then you proceed to an arraignment session after checking into probation. And in the arraignment session, the judge and the clerk will call your case and they will tell you with that arraignment, that you can either apply for a court-appointed lawyer, if you qualify, or you can hire your own.
But the only thing the court is going to do at your arraignment is enter a not guilty plea on your behalf, and then instruct you to come back for a further date, usually several weeks out for a pre-trial conference with the lawyer of your choosing or with the court-appointed lawyer if they’ve given you a court-appointed lawyer and you qualify. In my experience, it is not necessary that you hunt down an attorney in the wee hours of the morning to represent you the next day at the arraignment. You really shouldn’t rush to try to find someone for a process that really doesn’t require an attorney.
John: If you’re there without an attorney, do you need to make sure that you put in a plea of not guilty?
Mike: The court will do that routinely.
John: That’s just a routine thing.
Mike: The only thing the court wants to do is enter a not guilty plea on your behalf. Give you the opportunity to leave and then make a decision as to hiring your own attorney.
How to Choose an OUI Lawyer
John: Okay, so then, the next step would be going and finding, and on choosing a lawyer for your OUI defense. How do you do that in Massachusetts?
Mike: Well, I can tell you from experience that people obviously spent a lot of time on the internet searching for an attorney, and I think it is critically important. It is so very important in Massachusetts that if you’re going to defend the OUI case, meaning you’re going to fight it, [if] you don’t want to plead it out [and] you don’t want to have that OUI on your record for the rest of your life, then you need to find a qualified trial lawyer. An attorney who can defend that case through a jury trial or through a bench trial to a verdict. And that’s a long and arduous process.
It’s not easy. That’s the hard way to do things. And that is essentially what my practice is built upon, which is going all the way through to the end of a verdict in defending the cases vigorously as hard as I can from beginning to end. That being said, you don’t just pick up the phone and call the first lawyer that you can find because not every lawyer is qualified to defend an OUI case. It requires a level of experience and expertise, and you should be looking for a lawyer who has a very, very long track record of successfully defending OUI cases through the trial process.
John: I think a lot of people might think, “Oh, the first thing I need to do is call my uncle who is a lawyer,” or something like that, or, “I have a family friend who knows somebody who is a lawyer.” But you’re saying that most lawyers maybe don’t know how to defend an OUI charge.
Mike: Lawyers are like any other profession. For instance, doctors, there are neurosurgeons, there are podiatrists, there are gastroenterologists. There are various types of specialties within any profession. Within the lawyer profession, there are certainly criminal defense lawyers and then even within that group, there’s even a smaller group of people that are very experienced in OUI, DWI, DUI defense.
And I can tell you from experience that I’ve had plenty of folks that have called up their cousin, their uncle, their brother-in-law, who is a real estate, divorce, [or] bankruptcy lawyer and the best thing that that lawyer family friend of theirs can do is refer them to someone like myself. And I get plenty of those types of referrals for that reason because it is my niche.
The Importance of Choosing a Lawyer with Experience
John: Right. So is it important to hire then a lawyer with OUI experience from Massachusetts if you’re charged with an OUI in Massachusetts?
Mike: Absolutely. Massachusetts is really is set up that you only have two choices. You’re either going to plead the case out and receive the minimum mandatory penalty, especially with a first offense, and if that’s the route that you’re going to go, then you don’t really have to be quite that choosy because anybody can walk you into a courtroom, plead you out and get you the minimum mandatory penalties.
Option number two is you’re going to fight it. And that means you’re probably going to end up in front of a judge or a jury of six people in a District Court at a trial. And if that is the route that you’re going to go to protect yourself and to protect your interest, then you absolutely need to find a lawyer who has experience at trying these cases to verdict.
John: All right. That’s great information, Mike. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Mike: Thank you.
John: And for more information about Mike Bowser, visit bowserlaw.com or call 888-526-9737.