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
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
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.