Articles Tagged with “Melanie’s Law”

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Melanie’s Law was enacted to impose harsher penalties and sanctions against people that are charged with Operating Under the Influence in Massachusetts. The law has created new offenses that were not present prior to 2005 when it was signed into law. For instance, if someone who already has their license suspended for a previous operating under the influence (OUI), is arrested for operating under the influence again, they may now be charged with two offenses at the same time: OUI and OUI with a suspended license. This charge requires a mandatory jail sentence of at least one year and can be up to two and a half years, as well as a fine between $2,500-$10,000. In addition, a new crime was created for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol while there was child under the age of 14 in the vehicle. The driver can be charged with not only OUI, but also child endangerment while OUI. The punishment for a first offense is 90 days to 2.5 years imprisonment, a fine between $1,000-$5,000, as well as a yearlong suspension of the driver’s license. The crime of Manslaughter by Motor Vehicle was also created and implemented by Melanie’s Law. If a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol while operating a vehicle commits manslaughter, the driver will be charged with Manslaughter by Motor Vehicle. The minimum sentence is 5 years imprisonment and can be up to 20 years, as well as a fine up to $25,000.

Under Melanie’s Law, if a person has been convicted of OUI two (2) times, and is eligible for a hardship license, or in order to have their license reinstated, the driver will be required to have an Ignition Interlock Device installed in any vehicle that that person owns, leases or operates. The driver is required to pay for the expenses to install the device as well. The device requires that the driver have a blood alcohol reading of less than .02 in order for the vehicle to start. If the driver registers higher than .02, the vehicle will not start. The driver must report to company that installed the device every 30 days at which point the vendor uploads the data from the device and transmits it to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. If the device is necessary under the hardship license requirement, then the device must be used for the entire life of the hardship license, as well as an additional two (2) years after the license has been reinstated. If the driver is simply eligible for license reinstatement, then the device will be required for a mandatory two years. If the driver does not comply with the requirements, their license will be revoked for a minimum of 10 years, with the possibility of the revocation being for life.

Melanie’s Law does not specifically relate to just OUI offenders either. It is also applicable to persons that allow or hire an unlicensed individual or an individual with a suspended license to operate a motor vehicle. If an employer hires an individual with a suspended license to operate a motor vehicle, there is a $500 fine for the first offense, and up to one year in jail for a second offense. If person that owns or is in possession of a vehicle allows an individual that is unlicensed to operate the vehicle, the first offense is a sentence of one-year imprisonment and a fine up to $500. The same penalty is applicable if someone allows a person with an Ignition Interlock restriction to operate a vehicle without the device.
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The Boston Globe reported that a Norfolk woman is facing a second drunken driving charge after allegedly causing a multiple car collision in Attleboro according to several 911 callers. State Police charged her with operating under the influence of liquor, second offense, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, unlicensed operation, and marked lanes violations. After interviewing other drivers and administering field sobriety tests, State Police determined that the woman was driving while intoxicated. Police arrested her and took her into custody, transporting her to the State Police barracks in Foxborough. Three people not seriously injured were taken to local hospitals for treatment. The woman was arraigned on Monday in the Attleboro District Court and was ordered held on $3,000 bail with pretrial probation conditions to remain alcohol-free and to refrain from driving an automobile. Her license to operate an automobile was confiscated by the State Police and revoked indefinitely because police deemed her an immediate threat.

If convicted of a second offense OUI, a judge could sentence a defendant to prison for not less than 60 days or up to 2 ½ years in a house of correction. There is a mandatory 30 days that must be served in a house of correction, which may be served at a designated treatment facility for alcohol issues. If a defendant has less than 2 prior convictions he or she is eligible for 2 years of probation in addition to a 14 day in-patient residential alcohol treatment facility. The Registry of Motor Vehicles in Massachusetts will also suspend your license for 2 years. A defendant can apply for a hardship license after a year with the requirement of an alcohol interlocking device in the car during the period of hardship.
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In a recent ruling representing a change in the interpretation of Melanie’s Law, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has ruled that the Massachusetts Legislature did not intend that an “admission to sufficient facts” also known as a “CWOF” or “continuance without a finding of guilt” in a drunk driving case to be treated as a conviction by the Registry of Motor Vehicles when acting pursuant to G.L. c.90, § 24(1)(f)(1) to suspend an operator’s driver’s license for more that 180 days due to the driver’s refusal to take a breathalyzer test.

In so holding, the SJC decided that a person charged with operating under the influence of alcohol who receives a continuance without a finding -a routine disposition for first-time drunk driving offenders-shall not have their case counted as a first offense conviction on their record. The lawyer for the Registry of Motor Vehicles contended that a CWOF should be treated as a conviction subjecting a repeat (DWI/OUI) offenders to the additional license suspension penalties.

The case name is Souza v. Registry of Motor Vehicles and was decided on May 17, 2012 as reported in the Boston Herald. In this case, a defendant arrested and charged with OUI admitted to sufficient facts for a finding of guilty but he did not plead guilty and his case was continued without a finding and later dismissed after he successfully completed his probationary terms. The defendant was arrested again thirteen years later and he had refused to submit to a breathalyzer test. Later, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles suspended his driver’s license for three years pursuant to G.L. c.90, § 24(1)(f)(1) which directs that the RMV suspend the license for three years for a breath test refusal if the driver has been previously convicted of an OUI crime. If there is no previous conviction, the RMV suspension is for 180 days.
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When you are charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the official charge in Massachusetts is Operating Under the Influence (OUI). Today, the terms ‘OUI’ ‘DUI’ and ‘DWI’ are used interchangeably. Operating under the influence has become one of the most commonly encountered offenses in Massachusetts. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 17,500 people were killed in automobile collisions involving alcohol in 2002. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this represents 41 percent of the 42,815 people killed in all traffic accidents and crashes that year. Statistical evidence such as this lead to the passing of ‘Melanie’s Law’ in 2005, the purpose of which was to enhance the penalties attached to OUI offenders.

Being charged with an OUI is a serious offense in the state of Massachusetts, and someone charged would be well advised to seek legal counsel. A person may be found guilty of Operating Under the Influence (OUI) if they are 1) at least 21 and 2) register at .08% or higher when tested for your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If you’re younger than 21, you will face administrative penalties if you test at .02 or higher, plus standard charges at .08 or higher. If you are convicted, the penalties can be harsh and include imprisonment, significant fines, and suspension of driver’s license, probation, community service sentence, and mandatory enrollment in DUI traffic school.

PENALTIES ATTACHED

Being charged with OUI for the first time can be an extremely stressful and frightening experience. However, retaining an experienced Massachusetts defense attorney for your case can relax the situation and minimize the apprehension. In the event one is found guilty of an OUI first-offense, an individual faces a maximum 2 ½ years in jail, a $5,000 fine, and a 5-year license suspension at your RMV hearing. Drivers arrested for a first OUI offense can get their sentences reduced by agreeing to complete a state-approved alcohol education program. This is not an option after the first offense.

As you probably expected, the penalties for a second offense OUI are more severe. In any case, a qualified OUI defense attorney can significantly reduce the harsh penalties you will be facing. If convicted of a second offense it is possible you will be punished by a fine of at least $600 to the maximum $10,000, and imprisonment for a minimum of 60 days ranging to 2 ½ years; Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 90, § 24. In addition, the Registry of Motor Vehicles will suspend your driver’s license for 2 years when you are convicted on a second offense OUI.
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