"Melanie's Law" was signed into law on October 28, 2005. Its purpose is to enhance the penalties and administrative sanctions for Operating Under the Influence (OUI) offenders in Massachusetts. Melanie's Law has had a very harsh effect on drivers throughout Massachusetts. The information below highlights the new penalties under Melanie's Law and those sections that pertain to RMV suspensions.
MELANIE'S LAW - IGNITION INTERLOCK DEVICES
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.
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. This means that if a driver with two or more OUI offenses is eligible for license reinstatement, Ignition Interlock Devices will be required for two years. This two-year period is mandatory (even if the device was used with a hardship license).
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.
It is a violation of law to allow an individual with an Ignition Interlock restriction to operate a vehicle not equipped with the ignition interlock devices.
Ignition interlocks are prone to malfunctions and false positive readings. Massachusetts Suspended License attorneys have proven this at ignition interlock violation hearings before the RMV and the Board of Appeal. Common products such as cough drops, mouthwash, baked goods, and protein bars have registered as alcohol on Massachusetts Ignition Interlock Devices. Whether the device is produced by Smartstart, Intoxalock, Draeger, or one of the other Massachusetts Approved Interlock Vendors, it is not completely accurate.
Failure to comply with the Ignition Interlock Device requirements under the law will result in a license revocation from 10 years to life. Once an interlock device registers alcohol, you are usually “guilty until proven innocent” and the Registry will likely call you in for an interlock violation hearing. If you fail to appear or lose at the hearing, your license will be suspended for at least 10 years up to a lifetime. Given this stiff penalty, you should absolutely be represented by an attorney.
OTHER PROVISIONS OF MELANIE'S LAW
Melanie’s Law establishes a new offense of Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol while on a license suspended for Drunk Driving. 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 and a 1 year license suspension.
The Melanie Law has defined the penalties for allowing or employing an unlicensed driver (including relatives, friends, or known acquaintances) to operate a Motor Vehicle. It is now a violation to knowingly employ an individual with a suspended license as a motor vehicle operator.
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.
Melanie’s Law allows the Registry to cancel the registration plates of anyone convicted of a 3rd or subsequent alcohol-related driving offense for the duration of the suspension period.
The Melanie 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.
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 chemical test have significantly increased as well. This was apparently done to coerce drivers into taking the breathalyzer.
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.
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.