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Massachusetts Strictly Enforces Drunk Driving and Melanie’s Law

The Lawrence Eagle Tribune recently reported that an American Revolution memorial honoring the Methuen men who fought in the Revolutionary War was struck and damaged by a drunk driver. A Haverhill man was allegedly drunk at the time of the accident and exhibited erratic driving behavior both before and after striking the memorial with his vehicle, witnesses reported. The Tribune notes that Haverhill police arrested the driver of the car and charged him with driving under the influence of alcohol.  The Methuen police will charge him with speeding and leaving the scene of an accident after causing damage to property.

Penalties For OUI

Massachusetts has a Zero Tolerance policy against drunk driving. The penalties for being convicted of operating under the influence of alcohol (OUI) or driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) are harsh. In Massachusetts OUI and DUI are acronyms for the same crime. In Massachusetts this crime is properly referred to as “operating under the influence” of alcohol. If convicted of this crime, the penalties are even harsher for repeat offenders under Melanie’s Law. A first-time OUI offense can result in a one year license suspension, payment of a fine ranging from $500-$5,000 dollars, the possibility of up to 30 months of jail time, and/or mandatory alcohol education programming. However, with proper representation a defendant can walk away from a first offense, even if sufficient facts are found to support a conviction with an eventual dismissal, alcohol program and a forty-five day license loss. For second- or third-time offenses, the penalties increase in severity.

Melanie’s Law

Repeat offenders who drive while on a suspended license are subject to Melanie’s Law, which imposes two charges on the offender at the same time. The two crimes are Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol, and Operating After Suspension for Drunk Driving. Conviction under Melanie’s Law carries a minimum mandatory jail sentence of one year. Melanie’s Law further provides a provision for the crime of Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol With a Child 14 Years of Age or Younger in the Vehicle, under which offenders are charged with both an OUI and Child Endangerment While OUI. This offense carries a potential sentence that includes jail time of three to eighteen months. This offense cannot be continued without a finding however, a skillful attorney will focus on avoiding any jail sentence for this crime. Melanie’s Law also encompasses the crime of Manslaughter by Motor Vehicle. If the OUI caused the loss of the life of another, it is a vehicular manslaughter charge in addition to the OUI charge.

Melanie’s Law provides that those OUI multiple offenders are required to carry a license bearing a Z restriction (“Z” to indicate Zero Tolerance) and install in their vehicle, at their own expense, an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) once their license is reinstated or if they qualify for a hardship license.

A hardship license is a temporary license that is only valid for a twelve-hour period of the day, during which the licensee may drive a vehicle to for a legitimate purpose, i.e., getting to school, work of to go to the doctor. This is often referred to as a “Cinderella License” and is issued through the Registry of Motor Vehicles not the Court.

Legal Help

Needless to say, drunk driving is one of the most aggressively prosecuted offenses in Massachusetts. When it comes to defending against a OUI or DUI case in Massachusetts, the best course of action is to procure the legal services of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

If you, a friend or a loved one has been charged with an OUI offense, or an OUI dual charge under Melanie’s Law, you’ll need an experienced OUI attorney to help you fight your charges. Please do not hesitate to contact us online