Massachusetts DUI attorneys are paying close attention to the developments surrounding the efforts of state legislators to close a legal loophole that allows certain individuals convicted of Boston DUIs to avoid certain penalties.
It involves Melanie’s Law and those individuals who may have admitted to driving drunk, but are not actually found guilty according to the law. This is called being continued without finding. Those individuals may still have to preform community service or pay fines, but they aren’t technically found guilty of drunk driving.
Last week, in our Massachusetts DUI Lawyers’ Blog, we wrote about the decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled that should they be arrested again for driving drunk, those offenders who aren’t actually found guilty the first time should not be subjected to the harsher sanctions imposed by Melanie’s Law for repeat offenders.
This came after a 2010 case in which a man was arrested for his second DUI. Prosecutors attempted to have him punished under the tough penalties of Melanie’s Law. But the issue was that following his 1997 arrest for DUI, he admitted to a “sufficient facts for a finding of guilty.” The key here is that he never actually pleaded guilty, nor was he found guilty by the court.
In some cases, judges have allowed defendants to admit there is enough evidence to convict, but then the judge will continue the case without finding. Generally, this happens when judges believe the person isn’t going to re-offend. It’s a break, in other words, and one an experienced Massachusetts DUI defense lawyer can sometimes negotiate.
Those individuals are likely to agree to undergo substance abuse counseling or some other form of treatment.
So when he appealed those increased penalties, the court sided with him, saying legislators did not specifically say in the language of the law whether those in his situation should be deemed a repeat offender. It calls into question the whole meaning of the word, “convicted.”
That brings us to today. The implications of this ruling are that some penalties for certain repeat offenders could be lifted.
However, state legislators are trying to prevent this from happening. They want to introduce language into the law that would include this subset of DUI offenders, and effectively close the loophole.
They may in fact be successful in this, so what that means is that if you fall into this subset, you need to contact an experienced Attleboro DUI attorney who may be able to help you appeal your case, based on this new ruling.
According to The Boston Globe, this ruling could impact thousands of cases annually. In fact, between just 2008 and 2011, officials with the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles say there are about 33,000 cases that were continued without a finding.
That means that the RMV doesn’t count them when considering civil penalties for repeat drunk driving offenses. This would include sanctions like the length of time your license is suspended, which increases with every subsequent offense.
In order for the law to be changed, both the House and the Senate would have to vote to approve an amendment, which would then have to be signed off on by the governor.
The Law Offices of Michael DelSignore are conveniently located in Stoughton, Attleboro, New Bedford and Westborough.
Call (617) 694-6287 for more information.
Loophole in state law protects some drunk drivers, By Evan Allen, The Boston Globe