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Governor Closes Loophole in Drunken Driving Law

New law treats cases continued without a finding as convictions.

The governor has signed a bill toughening the state's repeat drunken-driver statute, better known as "Melanie's Law."

And it happened fast—Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill closing a "loophole" in the law less than two months after the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the statute did not apply to people who had their cases continued without a finding.

Melanie's Law passed in 2005. It stiffened drunken-driving penalties by requiring an offender's license to be suspended for three years on a second offense. The law was named after 13-year-old Melanie Powell, who was killed by a repeat drunken driver as she crossed a street in Marshfield in 2003.

The law, however, did not apply to those who admitted to sufficient facts of the crime but had their cases continued without a finding. In other words, the charge would be dropped if the offender did not commit another offense in a certain time frame. The state's high court ruled on May 17 that such cases are technically not convictions and don't make a defendant a repeat offender. 

, with many calling the distinction a "loophole." Within days, both the House and Senate had filed bills closing that loophole.

Last Sunday, Gov. Deval Patrick agreed with the Legislature and signed, as part of the 2013 budget, an amendment to toughen the law. Under the new law, cases that are continued without a finding count as convictions, as does refusing breathalyzer tests.  

Joseph July 20, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Gee, thanks Gov. Nice move after a State Trooper gets off free and clear when he was caught with an open beer in his car!! How about doing something with the fraud in the welfare system since you're all about grabbing headlines. Anything for votes!!
Just a person! July 21, 2012 at 12:20 AM
How about going after the presidents uncle, he got his liscense back and even had a Cinderella liscense issued, and correct me if I am wrong but isn't he also an illegal?
PGRD July 21, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Time for the Governor to address the use of hand-held phones while driving or cycling - by drivers of all ages. It seems that every driver has a phone pressed to their ear, in spite of the fact that it is universally considered to be dangerous. Why is this being ignored, or are the lobbies simply too powerful?
suspendedlicensehelp.com July 27, 2012 at 10:26 PM
This was not a “loophole.” Back in 2005, the Legislature wrote the law so as to make a DUI case which was resolved by an admission to sufficient facts, continuance without a finding and, eventually, a dismissal, not count to enhance the penalties for a chemical test refusal suspension. This is what the law said and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court interpreted the law as written. The current Legislature wanted to make these CWOFs count towards chemical test refusal suspensions, so it changed the law. There will be more changes in the near future. Although the Bill stalled in this session, eventually 1s offenders will be required to use the ignition interlock devices. That Bill, sponsored by Senator Robert Hedlund is likely to be re-filled in the next legislative session.

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