If you live in Massachusetts, beware of Melanie’s Law

Melanie’s Law is a Massachusetts statute intended to make penalties for operating under the influence of alcohol (OUI) more severe.

Passed in October 2005, the statute was designed to make it easier to prosecute repeat OUI offenders. This automatically makes the penalties for driving under the influence more severe, particularly for those who have been caught driving drunk before.

The Consequences of Melanie’s Law and an OUI Charge

The Law has had a very harsh effect on drivers throughout Massachusetts. According to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, here are some things to know about repeat OUI penalties under Melanie’s Law:

Driving Restrictions will be Enforced

  • In Massachusetts you can have a 15-day temporary license when you’re charged with a driving offense, but Melanie’s Law eliminates that allowance. In addition, the operator’s vehicle will be impounded for 12 hours.
  • Melanie’s Law has defined the penalties for allowing or employing an unlicensed driver (including relatives, friends, or known acquaintances) to operate a Motor Vehicle. It is now a violation to knowingly employ an individual with a suspended license as a motor vehicle operator.
  • The license suspension periods for refusing a chemical test have significantly increased as well. This was apparently done to coerce drivers into taking the breathalyzer.

Ignition Interlock Device

  • Any driver with more than one OUI offense can qualify for a hardship license or reinstatement of a suspended license, but he/she would be required to have an Ignition Interlock Device in his/her vehicle. This is a breathalyzer device that requires you to use before starting the car. Any blood alcohol reading greater than .02 will prevent the vehicle from starting. This device would be at the driver’s expense, and mandatory for the lifetime of the hardship license.
  • It is against the law not to comply with the Ignition Interlock Device restriction, and failure to comply could result in a license revocation from 10 years to life. Once an interlock device registers alcohol, you are usually “guilty until proven innocent” and the Registry will likely call you in for an interlock violation hearing. If you fail to appear or lose at the hearing, your license will be suspended for at least 10 years up to a lifetime. Given this stiff penalty, you should absolutely be represented by an attorney.

Your charges if you are caught again

  • Melanie’s Law establishes a new offense of Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol while on a license suspended for Drunk Driving. This means that a driver, who was driving under the influence of alcohol while his/her license was already suspended for OUI, can be charged with two crimes at once: 1.) OUI and 2.) OUI with a suspended license. This additional offense carries a minimum of a 1-year mandatory jail sentence and a 1 year license suspension.
  • Melanie’s Law creates a new crime of Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol With a Child 14 Years of Age or Younger in the Vehicle. This means that a driver can be charged with two crimes at once: 1.) OUI and 2.) Child Endangerment While OUI.
  • Melanie’s Law allows the Registry to cancel the registration plates of anyone convicted of a 3rd or subsequent alcohol-related driving offense for the duration of the suspension period.
  • If you are caught on a 4th OUI charge or anything beyond, you can be forced to forfeit your vehicle by the state.
  • Melanie’s Law creates a new crime of Manslaughter by Motor Vehicle. Any driver who commits manslaughter while operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs shall be convicted of Manslaughter by Motor Vehicle.
  • Melanie’s Law increases the length of license suspension from 10 years to a minimum of 15 years for a conviction of Motor Vehicle Homicide.

An OUI can have major consequences. More than one, particularly with the Melanie’s Law statute in Massachusetts, can be even more serious. If you’re facing an OUI, or a repeat offense, don’t delay on contacting a lawyer to represent you immediately.

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