An Overview of the Massachusetts Melanie’s Law

Legislation known as “Melanie’s Law” was passed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2005. This Massachusetts statute is intended to make penalties for operating under the influence of alcohol (OUI) more severe. The enactment of this law helped to usher in new and enhanced periods of license suspension or revocation and further established the Commonwealth’s Ignition Interlock Device (IID) Program.

Melanie’s Law is named for 13-year-old Melanie Powell, who was struck and killed by a driver who had multiple OUI convictions. Under this law, penalties for repeat offenders are stronger and prosecution is easier. For example, anyone who is found guilty of an OUI with a suspended license must be sentenced to a minimum of one year in jail.

The enactment of this law makes Massachusetts one of the strictest states for drunk driving offenses. The aim of Melanie’s Law is to impose the harshest consequences on those who are convicted of operating under the influence and causing the death of another. The manslaughter by motor vehicle charge was created under Melanie’s Law, carrying a minimum sentence of five years.

A number of provisions are outlined under the Massachusetts Melanie’s Law.

  • Drivers under the age of 21 convicted of an OUI will receive more stringent license suspensions.
  • In the event an accident results in serious bodily injury and the driver refuses to take a breathalyzer, he or she could receive a decade-long license suspension. A lifetime suspension is possible if an accident causes death.
  • Anyone with a conditional “hardship” driver’s license or a prior OUI conviction is subject to the mandatory placement of an ignition interlock device (IID) in a vehicle for a license to be reinstated.

The intention behind the creation of Melanie’s Law was to reduce the number of vehicular homicides by impaired drivers and decrease the number of people willing to risk committing the offense.

Since the law’s enactment, Massachusetts driving under the influence laws are some of the toughest out of any state. However, offenders can typically plea down from manslaughter by motor vehicle to motor vehicle homicide, which carries half the minimum sentence.

If you have been involved in an OUI, call our office for a chance at fair representation. Having an attorney who understands Melanie’s Law penalties can help you navigate this trying time.

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