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Senator’s Accident Exposes Inconsistency in Massachusetts Traffic and OUI Laws

Massachusetts state senator Anthony Galluccio, D-Cambridge, made headlines last week after he admitted to leaving the scene of a minor accident he apparently caused. According to the Boston Globe, Galluccio hit another vehicle Oct. 4, causing minor injuries to someone in that vehicle, and left the scene. Police searched unsuccessfully for him that night, but Galluccio turned himself in the next day. He told the police and media that he left the scene of the accident because he panicked, believing that his history of DUI convictions would hurt him in this case, and not realizing that anyone was hurt. Galluccio’s past, which includes drunk driving convictions in 1984 (later pardoned) and 1997, has led to speculation that he may have been driving under the influence of alcohol in the most recent case; Galluccio himself has declined to comment on the matter.

In an Oct. 13 editorial, the Globe focused on a larger question: Why has Massachusetts made it better for drunk drivers to leave the scene than to stay and take a breathalyzer? The newspaper pointed out that drunk drivers who cause accidents can avoid taking a breath or blood test, which provides strong evidence of drunk driving, by illegally leaving the scene. If caught, the editorial said, these drivers face fines of $20 to $200, a jail sentence of no time to two years, and a driver’s license suspension of just 60 days. By contrast, a first DUI carries fines and fees ranging from the hundreds to more than $5,000, a one-year license suspension and up to 2 1/2 years in prison. For a repeat offender like Galluccio, those penalties would be harsher and include mandatory jail time. This creates a perverse incentive for drunk drivers, the newspaper said. It called for the Legislature to strengthen hit-and-run penalties.

Read article: Driving: It shouldn’t pay to hit and run

As a Massachusetts drunk driving defense attorney, I would like to start by noting that Galluccio, like all criminal defendants, has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. People are understandably upset when high-profile people like politicians and athletes appear to be above the law, but Galluccio is entitled to due process to establish facts rather than speculation. There are many reasons other than being intoxicated why people might leave the scene of an accident.

But regardless of whether Galluccio was driving drunk, this editorial exposes the unfairness of establishing harsher penalties for OUI than for leaving the scene of an accident. Accidents, almost by definition, involve property damage, injuries or death. When the driver responsible for the accident hits and runs, it throws the victims into uncertainty and could stick them with the bill for damage and injuries they did not cause, if the driver is never caught. By contrast, many drunk driving arrests involve no crash at all, no damage and no injuries. In many of the cases I have defended as a Massachusetts DUI defense lawyer, the defendant was charged after a simple traffic stop, sometimes on a pretext that I could successfully challenge. This situation seems contrary to good public policy and suggests that political popularity, rather than common sense, may be behind the harsher penalties for drunk drivers.

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence in eastern Massachusetts, you should never plead guilty before talking to the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman. Even if you believe your best route is to plead guilty, attorney Neyman can often find strong defenses in your case, or help secure the best possible plea arrangement. To learn more about your legal option, please send a message online or call our downtown Boston office at (617) 263-6800 today.

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