Massachusetts House OKs tougher drunken driving bill

| 6/4/2003

Fearing the loss of $54 million in federal highway dollars, the Massachusetts House unanimously voted May 29 to toughen the state’s drunken driving law.

The Senate and Gov. Mitt Romney already have backed the legislation, which makes a 0.08 percent blood alcohol level proof of intoxication rather than just another piece of evidence for juries to consider.

Massachusetts is the only state in which drivers are not considered impaired if they register a blood alcohol level at or above the legal limit, The Salem News reported.

Under current law, registering a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher on a breathalyzer test creates “a permissible inference” that a driver was drunk – that then requires the prosecutor to go one step further and prove the driver was impaired. H3873 would remove that burden of proof from prosecutors.

The Bay State has until October to change the law or lose 2 percent – $5.4 million – of its highway money in the fiscal year starting in July, the newspaper reported. The losses multiply over the next four years to a total of $54 million.

The state can recover the withheld funds if it adopts the stricter rules by 2007.