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Drunk Drivers in Massachusetts Lightly Punished under Melanie’s Law

According to a recent report from the state’s Sentencing Commission, only about 20 of the approximate 110 defendants of drunk driving from 2007 to 2010 received jail time under Melanie’s Law. This law was created back in 2005 and is intended to beef up the penalties against those who endanger children by driving drunk, particularly when a child is in the car with the offender. Officials report that the law isn’t doing its job and only a small number of those who are convicted under the law actually serve any significant time behind bars. The average jail time for drivers convicted of drunk driving with a child present was less than three months.
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Drunk driving car accidents in Massachusetts and elsewhere took the lives of nearly 1,315 children under the age of 15 in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While these dangerous drivers should be serving significant time, that’s not what is happening. Some are only getting probation.

Our Boston drunk driving accident lawyers understand that drunk driving accidents are 100 percent preventable. It’s a shame that so many innocent, young residents are injured and killed in these kinds of accidents, which are entirely out of their control. State Sen. Robert Hedlund, R-Weymouth says that an adult has the ability to decide not to get into a car with someone who’s been drinking. Children, however, do not.

Hedlund says that he and other safe-driving advocates thought that this kind of law would be able to add jail time to the sentences of those who were convicted of drunk driving with a child present in the car. There is language within the law that stops judges from making the punishment for child endangerment concurrent with other charges.

According to the Sentencing Commission, less than 10 of the 34 people who were convicted for drunk driving with a child present in the vehicle in 2010 were sentenced to any kind of jail time.

Arrests under the law have had their ups and downs. In 2006, there were nearly 80 drivers charged with the crime. In 2011, there were 160 charged. Still, the sentences were shaky and not as tough as some would like.

If you remember, Melanie’s Law was named after a little girl killed by a drunk driver. Ron Bersani, Melanie’s grandpa, says judges are too lenient.

Children are completely vulnerable in these scenarios. Sometimes, children are too young to understand what being drunk is. When children start to understand what alcohol is and how if affects the body, many are still not able to comprehend the dangers it presents to a driver. Even when children understand all of these factors, they may be too frightened to speak up against an adult and refuse to get into a vehicle.

Bersani says all he wanted is to see more penalties handed out. He says that if you do the crime, you should have to do the time.

The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC is here to offer assistance to those and the family of those who have been the victim of a drunk driving car accident in Boston or elsewhere throughout Massachusetts. If you or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving-related car accident, call 1-888-367-2900 for a free appointment to discuss your case.

Additional Resources:

Few caught driving drunk with kids in car serve jail time, by Neal Simpson, Wicked Local Norwell
More Blog Entries:

Mom Risks Child’s Life in Drunk Driving Car Accident in Massachusetts, Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog, February 17, 2012