“Melanie’s Law” was enacted into law on October 28, 2005. Its purpose is to enhance the penalties and administrative sanctions for Operating Under the Influence (OUI) criminal offenders in Massachusetts. The information below highlights the penalties under the law and those sections that pertain to Registry of Motor Vehicles RMV driver's license suspensions in Massachusetts. Click here to learn more....
Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol While Already Suspended for OUI
Melanie’s Law establishes a new offense of Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol OUI and Operating After Suspension of your driver's license for people charged with Drunk Driving criminal offenses within Massachusetts. 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.
The Law - OUI while operating after a suspension for a previous OUI offense.
Penalty - 1-year minimum mandatory sentence – 2 ½ years imprisonment in a house of correction and a fine of $2,500 - $10,000.
Loss of License - 1 year license suspension.
Employing or Allowing an Unlicensed Operator to Operate a Motor Vehicle
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.
The Law - No person shall employ an individual with a suspended license as a motor vehicle operator.
Penalty - 1st Offense = Minimal $500 fines, $250 head injury fees, probation fees, 17 week drunk driving class. 2 ½ years imprisonment in a house of correction. 2nd Offense = same fines and fees as above and up to 2 ½ years imprisonment in a house of correction and/or a fine up to $1000.
Loss of License - 45 days suspension up to 2 years.
The Law - No person shall allow a vehicle owned by him/her or under his/her control to be operated by an unlicensed person.
Penalty - 1st Offense = 1 year imprisonment in a house of correction and a fine of not more than $500. 2nd Offense = 2 ½ years imprisonment in a house of correction and/or a fine of up to $1000.
Loss of License - License and/or registration suspension up to 1 year.
The Law - No person shall allow an individual with an Ignition Interlock restriction to operate a vehicle not equipped with the device.
Penalty - 1st Offense = 1 year imprisonment in a house of correction and a fine of up to $500. 2nd Offense = up to 2 ½ years imprisonment in a house of correction and/or a fine of up to $1000.
Loss of License - License and/or registration suspension up to 1 year.
The crime of Child Endangerment While Operating a Motor Vehicle Under Influence of Alcohol within Massachusetts.
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.
The Law - Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol with a child 14 years of age or younger in the vehicle.
Penalty - 1st Offense = 90 days – 2 ½ years imprisonment in a house of correction, and a $1,000-$5,000 fine. 2nd Offense = 6 months – 2 ½ years in a house of correction and a fine of $5000 - $10,000, or 3-5 years in a state prison.
Loss of License - 1st Offense = 1 year license suspension, 2nd Offense = 3 year license suspension.
Melanie's Law allows the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles to cancel the registration plates of anyone convicted of a 3rd or subsequent alcohol-related driving offense for the duration of the suspension period.
Melanie's Law allows a District Attorney to seek forfeiture of a motor vehicle for any defendant convicted of a 4th or subsequent alcohol-related driving offense.
Chemical Test Refusal or Failure
Melanie's Law eliminates the allowance of a 15-day temporary license. In addition, the operator’s vehicle will be impounded for 12 hours. The license suspension periods for refusing a Breathalyzer BTC chemical test have increased as well to 6 Month Driver's License Suspension. See the suspension table on the next page.
Manslaughter by Motor Vehicle
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.
The Law - Manslaughter while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Penalty - 5 year minimum mandatory sentence up to 20 years imprisonment in state prison and a fine of not more than $25,000.
Loss of License - 15 years - lifetime license suspension.
Motor Vehicle Homicide
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.
Ignition Interlock Devices
Starting January 1, 2006, any driver with a second or subsequent operating under the influence offense who is eligible for a hardship license or for license reinstatement will be required to have an Ignition Interlock Device attached to any vehicle the driver owns, leases, or operates (including an employer’s vehicle) at the driver’s expense. The goal of this device is to protect both the public and the driver from continued unlawful operation of a motor vehicle. Massachusetts now joins a majority of states in utilizing this technology.
A driver with a hardship license must use the device for the entire life of the hardship license and for two additional years after the license has been reinstated.
If a driver with two or more OUI offenses is eligible for license reinstatement, the Ignition Interlock Device will be required for two years. This two-year period is mandatory (even if the device was used with a hardship license).
A driver who has received a suspension of 5 years or longer for a chemical test refusal will be required to have a device for the balance of the chemical test refusal suspension period if a court orders an early reinstatement. Installation of the Ignition Interlock Device is a mandatory condition of the issuance of a hardship license or of license reinstatement. Once the device is installed, a driver will be required to pass a breath test before starting the vehicle. Any blood alcohol reading of greater than .02 will prevent the vehicle from starting. Every 30 days, the driver must return to the vendor, who will upload and transfer data from the device to the RMV.
Failure to comply with the Ignition Interlock Device requirements under the law will result in a license revocation from 10 years to life.
For information on how to obtain and use an Ignition Interlock Device, see the Ignition Interlock Device brochure (this is available in all full-service RMV branches and online at http://www.mass.gov/rmv).
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