BOSTON (CBS) – Repeat drunk drivers who’ve had their licenses suspended could be getting them back after the state’s highest court upheld a loophole in Melanie’s Law.
It’s the latest development in an I-Team story and it could put hundreds of repeat offenders back on the road.
“It’s encouraging for somebody who continues to drive drunk.”
That’s Ron Bersani’s reaction to the state Supreme Judicial Court’s decision which will make life easier for thousands of repeat drunk drivers. Bersani is the grandfather of Melanie Powell, namesake of the state’s landmark drunk driving law.
The SJC decision comes days after the I-Team told you about a loophole in Melanie’s Law which allows a drunk driver whose case ends in a what’s known as a CWOF — a continued without a finding — to avoid long license suspensions if they’re arrested again and refuse to take the breathalyzer test.
The state’s highest court has effectively said the language in question is not a loophole at all, but instead just what the Legislature intended — to give thousands of drunk drivers a chance to get back behind the wheel of their cars much sooner.
Defense lawyer Jay Milligan agrees with the SJC ruling.
“A continued without a finding is an admission to that crime,” says Milligan, who specializes in drunk driving cases. “You’re admitting that you committed that in no uncertain terms. It’s just not a conviction.”
“It’s not a loophole because (the Legislature) drafted this language,” he adds. “They didn’t do this overnight. This was a long process.”
Loophole or not, Ron Bersani would now like to see the language in the law changed by the Legislature to make all these CWOF’s count as convictions.
“I don’t know what the statistics are on the percentage of CWOFs, but it’s very very high, so this will effect thousands of people going forward,” Bersani says. “How many chances do you want to give somebody before they hurt or kill themselves or somebody else.”
A spokesman for the Registry of Motor Vehicles says the court’s decision could require the agency to shorten license suspensions already handed out to repeat drunk drivers.