Melanie's Law was spawned following the tragic death of, then 13 year old, Melanie Powell, who was killed in an automobile accident that was caused by a repeat drunk driver. The public mourning following this tragedy fueled the expeditious implementation of enhanced penalties for OUI related offenses. Melanie's Law was signed into law on October 28, 2005, furthering the clear objective to enhance both criminal penalties and administrative sanctions for OUI related offenses. The following is a summary of changes in Massachusetts OUI law following the implementation of Melanie's Law:
NEW OUI LAW: OUI while License Already Suspended for OUI
This is a separate and distinct offense from OUI; thus, if probable cause exists to charge an individual with OUI, during the period of time that their license to operate a motor vehicle is already suspended as a result of a prior OUI charge, this individual can be charged with two crimes at once: 1) OUI; and, 2) Operation while License Suspended for OUI.
PENALTY: The penalty for the latter offense is severe, carrying a mandatory minimum one year jail sentence.
NEW OUI LAW: Employing or Allowing an Unlicensed Operator to Operate a Motor Vehicle
i. No person shall employ an individual with a suspended license as a motor vehicle operator.
PENALTY: 1ST Offense: Up to a $500 Fine, coupled with a license suspension up to one year. 2nd Offense: Up to one year House of Correction sentence, and license suspension up to one year.
ii. No person shall allow a vehicle owned by him/her, or under their control, to be operated by an unlicensed person.
PENALTY: 1st Offense: One year House of Correction sentence; a fine up to $500; and, a license suspension up to one year. 2nd Offense: Two and one half years House of Correction sentence; and/or a fine up to $1000; and, a license suspension up to one year.
iii. No person shall allow an individual with an Ignition Interlock restriction to operate a vehicle not equipped with the device.
PENALTY: 1st Offense: Up to one year imprisonment and up to a $500 fine; and, license suspension up to one year. 2nd Offense: Up to two and one half years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1000; and, license suspension up to one year.
NEW OUI LAW: Manslaughter by Motor Vehicle
Melanie's Law provides that: 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.
PENALTY: Mandatory minimum State Prison sentence of five years, and up to twenty years, and a fine up to $25,000; and, a minimum license suspension of fifteen years, up to a lifetime suspension.
NEW OUI LAW: Child Endangerment while Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol
This new OUI Law is applicable when an individual is charged with OUI, and they were operating the motor vehicle while accompanied by a child fourteen years old, or younger.
PENALTY: 1st Offense: Imprisonment in a House of Corrections for ninety days to two and one half years, and a fine of $1,000 to $5,000; and, one year license suspension. 2nd Offense: House of Corrections sentence of six months to two and one half years, and a fine of $5,000 to $10,000; and, three year license suspension. Or, a State Prison sentence of three to five years.
ENHANCED CIVIL SANCTIONS PURSUANT TO MELANIE'S LAW:
REGISTRATION CANCELLATION - Pursuant to Melanie's Law, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles can cancel the registration plates of any individual that is convicted of a third or subsequent alcohol - related driving offense for the duration of the period of license suspension.
VEHICLE FORFEITURE - Akin to seeking forfeiture of a motor vehicle, for which probable cause that it was used in the furtherance of a drug transaction exists, Melanie's Law provides that the prosecutor can exercise discretion and may seek forfeiture of a defendant's vehicle, if they are convicted of a fourth or subsequent alcohol - related driving offense.
TEMPORARY LICENSE ELIMINATED - Prior to the implementation of Melanie's Law, an individual that was arrested and suspected of an alcohol - related driving offense was afforded a fifteen day temporary license. Melanie's Law eliminated this provision and provides that the operator's motor vehicle be impounded for at least twelve hours following the arrest for OUI.
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