Massachusetts Legal Blog
Melanie’s Law: A Brief Overview
Melanie’s Law is a Massachusetts statute intended to make penalties for operating under the influence of alcohol (OUI) more severe. It is named for 13-year-old Melanie Powell, who was struck and killed by a driver who had multiple OUI convictions.
Melanie’s Law, passed in 2005, was designed to make the prosecution of repeat offenders easier and the penalties for driving under the influence—particularly for repeat OUIs—stronger. Anyone who is judged guilty of an OUI with a suspended license, for example, must be sentenced to a minimum of one year in jail.
Melanie’s Law contains a number of other provisions, including the following. Underage drivers (defined as those under 21) will receive more stringent license suspensions if convicted of an OUI. If a driver refuses to take a breathalyzer, he or she could receive a decade-long license suspension if an accident caused serious bodily injury, and lifetime suspension if an accident caused a death. Finally, after a second OUI conviction, placement of an ignition interlock device (IID) in a vehicle after a second OUI conviction is mandatory for a license to be reinstated. An IID will lock the ignition is alcohol is sensed, so a vehicle cannot be started.
When it was passed, then-governor Mitt Romney observed that the Massachusetts had one of the “worst drunk driving records in the country.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has stated that OUI-related accidents have lessened in Massachusetts since the passage of Melanie’s Law. The group calls for provisions of the law to be applied to first-time offenders in the future.
If you would like to discuss OUIs, please contact us.
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