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October 28, 2011

Massachusetts Lawmakers Consider Tougher Drunk Driving Penalties


thumbnail.aspx.jpegThe Massachusetts State Legislature is currently considering a proposed bill that would impose stiffer penalties for Drunk Driving Law Violations.

The bill proposed by State Senator Robert Hedlund would effectively make mandatory the installation of an interlock device for anyone convicted of Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol, even for first-time offenders.

As they stand today, current OUI / DUI Laws only only require the installation of an interlock device on a person's vehicle for a Second Offense OUI / DUI, which also imposes a sentence of not less than 60 days in jail and up to 2.5 years, as well as a loss of license for a 2 year period.

Proponent of the bill to require interlock devices for even first-time offenders argue that a "habitual drunk driver" still drives, irrespective of whether he has a license or not. But the rationale doesn't make sense because a first-time offender cannot be considered a 'habitual offender' if he only drove drunk once...

MADD, or Mother's Against Drunk Driving, also support this bill, citing that Massachusetts drunk driving related deaths and injuries are down, and only 85 of 3,786 persons 'repeat offenders' who have interlock devices have since reoffended.

However, according to recent statistics, there are approximately over 15,000 DUI related arrested in Massachusetts each year. So in reality, the statistics don't support Senator Hedlund's rationale that every drunk driver should be considered a potential 'repeat offender.'

Accordingly, there should be concern for this proposal that would require the installation of an interlock device on ever a DUI / OUI First Offense. Yes, there are many people who are arrested each year for alleged drunk driving, and of those, a great deal of them who submit to a Breathalyzer Test blow a reading at 0.08% or above.

The reality, however, is that it is impossible and inappropriate to characterize each OUI offender simply by his arrest. The circumstances of each arrest should be evaluated on its own merits. For instance, there is a difference between an offender who might have had one drink too many versus an offender who has an alcohol problem. The penalties imposed in each instance, should vary according to the circumstances of each specific case.

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