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Melanie’s Law and its Impact on Driver’s License Suspensions in Boston


Massachusetts is widely regarded as one of the strictest states when it comes to impaired driving. Our state’s operating under the influence (OUI) laws can land a person in prison for years after just one conviction. However, this is a fairly rare outcome. However, severe penalties involving your license are a whole different story. That’s because Melanie’s Law has a significant impact on license suspensions in Boston.

If you’ve been charged with impaired driving, the penalties you face will depend upon the circumstances of your case. Anything from your blood alcohol content to prior convictions can have a significant effect. If you’re facing severe consequences, though, you have Melanie’s Law to thank. As such, it’s important to speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible — even if this is your first charge.

What Is Melanie’s Law?

Melanie’s Law went into effect back in 2005. It increased penalties for intoxicated driving and also created entirely new punishments. The law was named after Melanie Powell — a young girl who was struck and killed by a habitual drunk driver in 2003.

This tragedy led to a law that changed penalties for refusing a blood alcohol test or breathalyzer, created new Ignition Interlock Device (IID) requirements, changed the penalties for failing impairment tests, and even created new offenses and penalties under the law.

The most severe offense under the law is manslaughter by motor vehicle. This charge carries a minimum of five years in prison. However, the charges against a person don’t have to be this serious to result in detrimental impacts.

What Impact Does Melanie’s Law Have on Boston License Suspensions?

Boston has one of the lowest vehicle ownership rates in America. This is unsurprising since our city established America’s first public transit system. However, that means little to the people who depend on their cars and trucks for daily transportation. If a person is charged with OUI in Boston, Melanie’s Law will have a significant impact on their driver’s license suspension. Consequences vary based on how many convictions a person has faced:

OUI First Conviction

Melanie’s Law didn’t have a massive effect on Massachusetts first-offense drunk driving laws. However, penalties for refusing a breathalyzer test were increased. Drivers will face consecutive suspensions for the OUI conviction and refusal. Those under the age of 21 will lose their license for three years after a refusal.

OUI Second Conviction

For a second offense, any license suspension will be followed by an Ignition Interlock Device requirement prior to reinstatement. Those convicted also cannot get a hardship license for a year. Anyone who refuses a breathalyzer will face a three-year license suspension. Those under 21 who refuse will lose their license for five years.

OUI Third Conviction

Melanie’s Law means a person cannot get a hardship license for two years after a third offense. This jumps to more than five years if they refused a breathalyzer. A loss of license may be the least of your worries, though, since the state can seize your vehicle or cancel your registration at this point.

Subsequent Convictions

Penalties for OUI increase after a fourth and fifth conviction. However, the penalties remain the same for convictions subsequent to five. However, the fourth conviction results in a license suspension of 10 years, and you cannot apply for a hardship license until five years have elapsed. On a fifth conviction, you can expect to lose your license for life.

What if You’re Charged With Operating Under the Influence?

If you’ve been charged with an OUI in Boston, it’s important for you to understand your rights. This alone could dictate whether you’re able to keep your license. You’ll no doubt talk to a prosecutor eventually — or perhaps the court will convey a message from them. Either way, they’ll likely tell you that accepting a plea deal is in your best interest. In reality, it’s in their best interest. They want to get your case processed as quickly as possible.

If you allow them to do this, you have very little control over what comes next. They’ll probably threaten you with jail time if you don’t accept a plea, but this is simply a scare tactic. While you can accept their deal and whatever provisions they offer, it’s often preferable to negotiate a plea deal or establish that a conviction is either unlikely or inappropriate. An experienced legal professional can help in this process.

Clearly, Melanie’s Law had a significant effect on OUI charges in Boston. If you’ve been charged with impaired driving and are facing a license suspension, contact us today by calling (508)-625-5776. At The Law Office of Brian Simoneau, we’re here to advocate for you.

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