Reporter Kathy Curran of the WBZ I-Team recently did a story regarding repeat DUI offender James F. Rooney of Stoughton, Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles suspended Rooney’s driver’s license suspended for 8 years, apparently as a result of a 3rd offense DUI conviction. His license will remain suspended at least until 2016.
Rather than repeatedly driving on a suspended license, Rooney had the ability to be considered for a 12 hour hardship license, issued after a hearing before either the Mass. RMV or the Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance. Instead of driving legally on a hardship license, Rooney chose to repeatedly drive on a suspended license. This was definitely a bad choice, as Rooney was not driving out of necessity or because of a true emergency.
The I-Team report suggested that Rooney did not attempt to obtain a DUI Hardship License because Melanie’s Law would require him to install an ignition interlock device in his car and he did not want to do so. This is supported by Rooney having been found not only driving on a revoked license, but also purchasing beer. The ignition interlock device would have prevented him from starting his vehicle if he had a blood alcohol content above .02.
Because of the I-Team report, the police may cite, charge, and prosecute Mr. Rooney for the crime of driving on a license which was revoked for operating under the influence. This conviction carries a minimum mandatory 60 day jail sentence. Rooney may be required to serve a longer sentence, due to factors such as his Massachusetts Criminal Record, RMV driving record, and the flagrancy of his conduct.
This case illustrates two important points. Driving on a suspended license is a serious crime which can result in mandatory jail sentences and other stiff penalties, all of which can be avoided with the issuance of a hardship license. Also, this case shows that long license suspensions do not necessarily protect public safety. Drivers such as Rooney may continue to drive anyway. However, mandatory installation of the ignition interlock device is a sound protective measure. An ignition interlock device would physically prevent Mr. Rooney from starting and operating his vehicle.