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.