Melanie’s Law delivers harsh drunk driving penalties

| Dec 17, 2019 | Firm News |

Common sense often goes out the window when people drink. Every day, people drink and drive without seeing the harm in it. A conviction for operating under the influence (OUI) in Massachusetts can have far-lasting criminal and personal consequences.

If you’re facing an OUI charge, whatever the reasons behind it, it’s vital to be aware of the ramifications a conviction can carry.

Melanie’s Law is a Massachusetts statute intended to increase the penalties for those convicted of OUI. The law is named for 13-year-old Melanie Powell, who was struck and killed by a driver who had multiple OUI convictions. The law also created new criminal OUI offenses, some of which include:

Operating Under the Influence with a Suspended License for OUI. Anyone who drives under the influence with a license that is already suspended for OUI can be charged with an OUI as well as OUI with a suspended license. This charge carries a jail sentence of one to two years. Penalties also include a fine from $1,000 up to $5,000 and a one-year license suspension.

Child Endangerment While Operating a Motor Vehicle OUI. If a driver is stopped for a driving under the influence with a child under the age of 14 in the car, they will be charged with child endangerment. The penalties for an OUI child endangerment conviction include a jail sentence of 90 days to 2.5 years, a fine from $1,000 up to $5,000 and a one-year driver’s license suspension. Penalties for subsequent offenses are increasingly harsh.

Manslaughter by Motor Vehicle. Any driver accused of causing the death of another while driving under the influence will be charged with manslaughter. This charge carries a five-year minimum mandatory jail sentence up to 20 years, a fine of up to $25,000 and a driver’s license suspension ranging from 15 years to a permanent lifetime loss of driving privileges.

With such serious consequences, it is important to avoid drinking and driving all together and to seek legal advice when facing criminal charges.