Melanie’s Law Explained

Many Massachusetts Drivers are thoroughly confused by the penalties imposed by Melanie’s Law, a tough drunk driving law which was designed to improve public safety.

On October 28, 2005, the Massachusetts Drunk Driving Law was amended by “Melanie’s Law” This law substantially increased penalties and sanctions for drunk driving related offenses and refusing the breathalyzer. Also, the law imposed an immediate suspension upon refusal of a chemical breath test and eliminated the 15 day temporary licenses which were previously issued to offenders who refused the breathalyzer. Since the passage of Melanie’s Law, the number of people who were arrested in Massachusetts and charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of liquor (OUI) has steadily increased. According to data from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), in the year prior to the passage of Melanie’s Law, 13,335 people were arrested and charged with OUI. Between October 28, 2005 and October 28, 2006, the first year after Melanie’s Law took effect, the number of arrests rose to 14,068; in the second year, that number rose again to 15,591. According to the RMV’s most recent statistics, in the third year since Melanie’s Law took effect, there were 16,199 people arrested and charged with OUI in Massachusetts.

One of the goals of Melanie’s Law was to persuade people to take the breathalyzer by imposing harsh license suspensions for breathalyzer refusals. License suspensions for breathalyzer refusals range from 6 months to lifetime.  With these long suspensions, many people think twice before refusing the breathalyzer.

Another component of Melanie’s Law requires the installation of breath alcohol ignition interlock devices in vehicles of repeat offenders. Drivers with 2 or more DUI charges on their records must operate only those vehicles equipped with interlock devices during the entire term of any hardship license and for a period of two (2) years after getting their full licenses reinstated.

Melanie’s Law created the following new crimes: Employing or allowing unlicensed operator to operate motor vehicle, allowing an individual with an ignition interlock restriction to operate a vehicle not equipped with the device, Removal of the device, or failing to have the device inspected, maintained, or monitored on at least two occasions, at least two attempts to start a vehicle with a blood alcohol level in excess of .02, Driving without an ignition interlock device when its mandated, Tampering with an ignition interlock device, supplying an air sample to start someone else’s vehicle,  DUI while driving on a suspended license because of drunk driving, and DUI with a child 14 years of age or younger in the car.

Melanie’s law also increased the waiting period to apply for a hardship license for a second offense.  Now, in most cases, you must wait one year to get a hardship license on a 2nd offense. Also, it increased the length of license suspension for vehicular homicide from 10 to 15 years.

Given the complexities of Melanie’s Law, having a qualified lawyer fight for you is essential. You should hire a lawyer who knows the Massachusetts Drunk Driving and Hardship License laws inside and out.