What is Melanie’s Law, and does it work?

Melanie’s Law makes Massachusetts as strict state for drunk driving, but how often is the law actually used?

Melanie's Law is one of the laws that makes Massachusetts such a strict state for drunk driving. It mandates that any offender who has been convicted two or more times for Operating Under the Influence (OUI) is required to have an Ignition Interlock Device installed in his or her vehicle. A conditional hardship license may be offered to someone who is eligible for eventual reinstatement of driving privileges. Melanie's law also states that anyone with such a license must get an IID installed in his or her vehicle, and it must remain in the vehicle for two full years after privileges have been reinstated.

Why did the law come into effect?

Melanie's law has existed since October of 2005, and has provided a role in making the state's IID system much better established. The campaign to put the law into effect was led by Ron Bersani, whose granddaughter Melanie Powell was killed when she was struck by a drunk driver while walking home in 2003. The aim of the law is to impose the harshest consequences on those who claim lives by driving while drunk or intoxicated, and to strongly discourage repeat offenses. Under the law, the manslaughter by motor vehicle charge was created, which carries a minimum sentence of five years.

How effective has Melanie's Law been?

The idea behind the creation of the law was that it would reduce the number of vehicular homicides by impaired drivers, and decrease the amount of people willing to risk committing the offense. Since the law's initial instatement, the state's driving under the influence laws have been some of the toughest out of any state. However, the actual enforcement of these restrictions has fallen a bit to the wayside. Typically offenders can plea down from manslaughter by motor vehicle to motor vehicle homicide, which carries half the minimum sentence.

According to an article by the Boston Globe, only 8.6 percent of OUI sentences from 2012 to 2016 in Massachusetts were for 7 year periods, while 77.4 percent were 2.5 year sentences. The remaining 14 percent of people convicted were sentenced to 10 months or less. In a recent case, Mark Ducharme was driving 60 miles per hour on a back road and lost control, killing the passenger in his vehicle. Despite being found to be under the influence, he as able to make a plea bargain for two-and-a-half years instead of for the penalty of five years that would be imposed if his case was recognized as a Melanie's Law case.

Anyone living in Massachusetts who has been accused of OUI may fall under the scrutiny of the court. Not all cases are viewed as violations of Melanie's law. For a chance at fair representation in any OUI case, it may be a good idea to hire an attorney in the local area who practices criminal law.