A battle over how to reduce drunk driving even further has been brewing for some time now at the Massachusetts State House. Leading this effort is the Massachusetts chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD.) MADD is a laudable organization, with an admirable goal: The elimination of drunk and drugged driving. I say this even though I am a Wrentham Massachusetts OUI defense lawyer, and even though I think drunk and drugged driving will never, unfortunately, be completely “eliminated.”
While as a criminal defense attorney I aggressively defend my OUI clients, I don’t approve of drunk driving, at all. Who would? I don’t want my loved ones, or myself, injured or worse by a drunk driver. I support reasonable legislative efforts to reduce drunk driving. But the crucial question within this struggle, has always been how to achieve this goal, without almost completely eliminating drivers’ legal and constitutional rights in the process. I think we can all agree that sound and safe public policy is not achieved nor advisable on any subject, through wide-ranging removal of people’s legal rights, in the process.
So the most recent question now being debated on this issue is this: Should the current Massachusetts law on drunk driving/DUI offenses (known as Melanie’s Law,) be changed to require that Ignition Interlock Devices (IID’s) be installed on any motor vehicle(s) owned or operated by anyone convicted of a first offense OUI? As our website section on OUI/DUI offenses explains, IID’s are basically breathalyzer machines for a motor vehicle engine: The driver is required to blow into a tube mounted on the dashboard of the vehicle. If the IID detects any alcohol at all; it will do two things: 1) It will prevent the engine from starting. 2) It will record the event and the breath test result in an on-board computer that is tamper-proof. The device will transmit this information to appropriate authorities (such as the offender’s probation officer and RMV personnel.) If the IID does not detect any alcohol on the first test, it will allow the engine to start, but will require “rolling” tests at calibrated time intervals afterward, to make sure that the driver did not start drinking after the first test.
Importantly, at present, IID’s are mandatory for anyone convicted of a second offense OUI/DUI, or higher. However, 25 states now require IID’s for anyone “convicted” of ANY OUI/DWI offense – first offense and beyond. That number is expected to grow substantially in the next few years. Hence, the majority of states will soon require IID’s for convictions of first offense OUI. Should Massachusetts join these other states?
I’ll address that question, in Part Two of this Post