By Massachusetts OUI Attorney James Milligan
Comments regarding the recent article published in the Boston Herald titled Feds: Mass. doing poor job vs. drunken driving (article is included below)
Massachusetts does not “scrub” prior OUI offenses. We have a lifetime lookback period in this respect, this is as tough as it gets. For instance, you could have a married father of two who had two prior OUI offense in the 1970’s, who gets arrested today. This person is looking at 150 minimum mandatory sentence with an 8 year license loss. Is this really what we mean when we say we need to get tougher? Yet there is very little the courts can do for this person and RMV will certainly not help this person. Many other states have limited lookback periods.
What needs to happen is the Judges who have gone through a rigorous selection process need to have more discretion on how best to handle these offenders. What we have are people making laws who for the most part have never stepped foot in a district court in their lives and have no idea of the actual ramifications of their actions/laws.
Ignition Interlock devices are not going to prevent drinking and driving. If someone wants to get into a vehicle and drive drunk they are going to do it. Ignition interlock devices for first offenders will result in more trials in the district court and a vast amount of resources to monitor these devices. Not to mention the expense to install and maintain these devices which many are not able to afford. It is not illegal to have something to drink and drive so a zero tolerance is not the option. If the government wants to stop drinking and driving they should be encouraging more enforcement (i.e stop cutting law enforcements budget) and not imposing remedial measures after someone has been caught drinking and driving.
By O’Ryan Johnson – Boston Herald
Thursday, February 10, 201
Despite the Bay State’s moves to get tough on drunken drivers in recent years, Massachusetts is rated by the National Transportation Safety Board among the worst states in the nation when it comes to adhering to tough federal drunken driving recommendations.
Massachusetts has adopted just four of 11 NTSB recommendations designed to keep repeat drunken drivers off the road, the agency said.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Ron Bersani, the architect of Melanie’s Law and grandfather of Melanie Powell, a 13-year-old killed by a repeat drunken driver. “The fight against drunk driving is something that is an ongoing battle. We have to keep strengthening Melanie’s Law, and we’re absolutely trying to do that.”
The NTSB wants states to have a dedicated drunken driving court, and bar the practice of scrubbing offenders’ records after they complete treatment.“We know individually that these are effective programs,” said Danielle Roeber, the NTSB’s chief of safety advocacy. “We know that these items if implemented have an effect on recidivism, on crashes with fatalities, and injuries, if a state puts them into place and uses them.”
The agency also recommends ignition interlock devices on first time offenders’ cars; a zero blood alcohol limit for repeat offenders; impounding drunken drivers’ cars and confiscating their license plates; unannounced alcohol screening for offenders; long-term alcohol treatment and follow up; and a ban on plea bargains.
Massachusetts is among 23 states have adopted fewer than five of the NTSB’s recommendations. Only six have adopted eight or more, and no state has made all 11 of the agency’s policies law.
State Sen. Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth) has filed a bill to toughen Melanie’s Law by making the interlock devices mandatory for six months after a first offense.
His bill would also prohibit bundling, when two or more drunken driving offenses are committed within a short time frame, the courts are now allowed to punish them as one as opposed to assigning separately.
“I do think things have gotten better,” he said. “Some of the criteria that the NTSB looked at, might venture into areas related to civil liberties. Do we have room for improvement? Absolutely. We hope to improve drunk driving laws and close some of these loopholes.”