In an effort to make Massachusetts drunk driving laws easier to understand and apply, State Senator Katherine Clark has called for legislation that would make the laws more comprehensible. In Massachusetts, impaired driving laws have been amended 69 times and continue to become more confusing and repeated in many places. For example, when the legislation was changed in 2005 for repeat drunk driving, not only did it adopt the new name, “Melanie’s Law,” in memory of 13-year old Melanie Powell who was killed by a repeat drunk driver, but the change added eight new sections and seven new categories of amendments to the law that was already ambiguous. As a result, the law can be construed and interpreted in many different ways.
In an article written by State Senator Clark in today’s Boston Globe, Clark writes that: “…judges, prosecutors and defense counsel struggle to apply the law. Most experts agree that the content of the law is solid, but the language needs to be re-worked to ensure protections against drunk drivers.” She continues to say, “In an effort to reorganize the Commonwealth’s OUI laws, I have filed An Act to Protect the Citizens of the Commonwealth from Drunk Drivers.” She argues that this call to clarify the law will not change the substance, criminal sentences, or penalties, but will rather make it easier to understand and use in order to protect citizens from drunk drivers.
There are approximately 13,000 Massachusetts drivers who are convicted of drinking and driving each year. In 2008 alone, there were 363 traffic fatalities due to drunk driving in Massachusetts. State Senator Clark asserts that this legislation will improve the drunk driving law to “protect the citizens of the Commonwealth.”
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