State Senator Robert Hedlund, a Weymouth Republican, has filed a bill designed to strengthen Melanie’s Law by requiring ignition interlock devices for six months after a first drunk driving offense. In an effort to close “loopholes,” his bill would also prohibit bundling (punishing two or more concurrent drunk driving offenses as one).
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has rated Massachusetts, which has adopted 4 of its 11 federal drunk driving recommendations, as being among the worst in the country when it comes to tough drunk driving policy. Some of the NTSB’s recommendations include a zero BAC limit for repeat offenders, impromptu alcohol screening for offenders, and a prohibition on plea bargaining. Even Senator Hedlund admitted to the Boston Herald that “some of the criteria that the NTSB looked at, might venture into areas related to civil liberties.”
It is well known that, time and again, lawmakers are influenced by the emotional pull surrounding strict OUI/DUI/drunk driving laws, and as a result, our constitutional protections are watered down. As Representative Eugene O’Flaherty, a Chelsea Democrat and House chairman on the judiciary committee, said to the Boston Globe, “The challenge is always how do you make sure that public safety is being enhanced while at the same time making sure that case law and constitutional safeguards are also protected.”
Of course, experienced Massachusetts OUI/DUI/drunk driving attorneys are always quickly alerted to any possible intrusions into these constitutional safeguards. Perhaps that is why Senator Hedlund blames the group of legislators who also work as criminal defense lawyers for rejecting measures to expand Melanie’s Law, which is already one of the most restrictive drunk driving laws in the country, in previous sessions.
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