Bill targets repeat drunken driving offenders in Massachusetts

| 8/8/2005

A measure in the Massachusetts Legislature takes aim at chronic drunken drivers and could help get them off roads in the state.

Dubbed Melanie’s Bill – named for a 13-year-old girl who was killed by a drunken driver two years ago –targets drivers who try to avoid conviction by refusing to take breath-alcohol and field sobriety tests when stopped by police.

Filed by Gov. Mitt Romney, the measure would establish mandatory jail time for repeat offenders, allow judges to impound and order the sale of vehicles owned by repeat offenders and mandate a lifetime loss of license for a drunken driver who has killed someone.

The license suspension for refusing to submit to Breathalyzer or field sobriety tests would be increased from six months to one year for a first offense. Subsequent offenses could result in a lifetime suspension.

It also would require a mandatory three-month jail sentence for anyone convicted of drunken driving if they were later caught driving without a license.

In addition, prosecutors would also be able to submit certified records or prior drunken driving convictions in court, rather than having to prove prior offenses again – as they are now required to do under Massachusetts’ law.

H4099 is in the legislature’s Joint Committee on Judiciary. It is scheduled for a hearing in September.

The bill’s passage would assure conformance with federal requirements that states must adopt to preserve federal funding intended for important highway projects. If Massachusetts fails to meet the federal mandates by October, the state would have to transfer about $9 million from the Highway Department to the Governor’s Highway Safety Bureau.