On October 28, 2005, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed “Melanie’s Law.”

The purpose of “Melanie’s Law” was to enhance the penalties and administrative sanctions for offenders in Massachusetts who Operate Under the Influence (OUI). An OUI is more popularly referred to as a DUI in other states. It was the result of a campaign by friends of a young girl, who was killed by a repeat drunk-driver.

The law came into effect in January, 2006, and resulted in much harsher penalties for an OUI or DUI. For repeat offenders, these new penalties included the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) when their licenses are reinstated or if they are issued a hardship license. In either case, this license comes with a Z restriction. The Z stands for Zero tolerance for drunk driving and tells law enforcement officials that individuals with this restriction may only operate a vehicle with an Ignition Interlock Device installed.

An ignition interlock device (IID) is similar to a breathalyzer, which is connected to the vehicle. The driver is required to breath into the device before starting the vehicle. If the IID detects a blood alcohol above the pre-programmed limit, then the interlock device will prevent the vehicle from starting.

Melanie’s Law allows for a new offense of Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol and Operating After Suspension for Drunk Driving.

This means is that if you are driving under the influence of alcohol while you are on a suspended license you can be charged with two crimes at once – an OUI or DUI and an OUI or DUI with a suspended license. The penalty is a one-year minimum mandatory sentence with up to 2½ years imprisonment in a County House of Correction and a fine of $2,500 – $10,000. In addition, you will also receive a one-year license suspension.

Melanie’s Law also provides penalties if you knowingly allow an unlicensed driver (including family members or friends) to operate a motor vehicle while they have a suspended license. The penalties for knowingly employing an unlicensed person to operate a vehicle are up to a $500 fine for a 1st offense or up to one-year imprisonment in a House of Correction and/or a fine up to $1,000 for a second offense. In addition, you may also receive a license and/or registration suspension for up to one year. The crime of knowingly allowing someone to drive your vehicle while they are unlicensed carries a one-year imprisonment in a House of Correction and a fine of not more than $500 for a first offense. For a 2nd offense, you can be given 2½ years imprisonment in a House of Correction and/or a fine of up to $1,000. In addition, you may receive a license or registration suspension for up to one year. These same penalties also apply if you allow somebody with an ignition interlock restriction to operate a vehicle, which is not equipped with the device.

In my next post, I will be looking at some further consequences that arise from Melanie’s Law.