Lawmakers and supporters of Melanie’s Law are mad after a sensationalized news report in the Boston Herald that there are nearly 1,000 drivers on Massachusetts roads with five or more OUI convictions. They are driving with unrestricted licenses despite laws which mandates permanent license revocation after a 5th offense conviction.
How are they still driving? They were “grandfathered” in, or their offense took place before the law change. In fact, this has been the case since the lifetime lookback law passed in 2002. So these legitimately licensed individuals have been driving for 10 years without any problems.
However, if they were to be arrested now, after the law has changed, their license would be taken permanmently, and they would also be facing mandatory minimums of at least 2 years in prison.
Still, for some lawmakers, whether truly outraged or concerned on behalf of the people they represent, the fact is unacceptable.
“I don’t think it’s hyperbole to categorize this as a crisis,” said Representative Harold P. Naughton, Jr. (D-Clinton). He says this revelation, which came from the Boston Herald and the Registry of Motor Vehicles, is a chance to “set up some hearings as to whether we need to tighten up the licensing criteria.”
State Senator Bob Hedlund (R-Weymouth) is hoping the numbers will fuel support for an effort to put ignition interlock devices in the cars of all drunk drivers. Right now, Mass. law only mandates them after a second offense.
Registrar Rachel Kaprielian says there is little that can be done. While she says the numbers may be “unnerving,” it is a “leftover vestige of the laws before they were strengthened.” She says because future offenses will face revocation under the law change, “that number will not grow.”
Lawmakers know how the laws work. If they didn’t think some OUI offenders would be grandfathered under this law and allowed to keep their license, they didn’t think things all the way through. This application of the law is common sense and shouldn’t come as a surprise.
So either they didn’t consider it in advance, and had a severe lapse in common sense, or they are acting outraged because they believe that’s what the public wants. After all, to not seem outraged about drunk drivers on the road could spell lower approval ratings and a subsequent loss of votes.
An OUI conviction carries serious penalties, even for a first time offender. But with the occasional tragic accident making headlines and the seeming outrage of lawmakers over the application of a law they approved, these penalties only stand to get harsher.
If you are charged with an OUI, whether it’s your first or multiple charge, contact my offices today.