When it comes to preventing drunk driving through strict penalties, Massachusetts is somewhere right on the middle border.
The website Wallet Hub analyzed DUI laws in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia using a key of 15 different metrics. Using this, they then ranked each state based on how strict or lenient it was on DUI offenders.
Massachusetts ranked 23rd out of 51 for overall. In terms of criminal penalties, however, we ranked as the 9th-strictest state. However, for DUI prevention, we ranked way at the bottom at 44th.
This tells us that while we do have some positive attributes in the fight against drunk driving accidents and injuries, we still have a long way to go.
Fact is, drunk driving is cited in nearly one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities. Beyond the loss of human life, there is the fact that economic losses for these crashes cost Americans an estimated $60 billion annually. That’s according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The good news is that when federal and state governments started cracking down on DI offenders, the rate of drinking-and-driving-related deaths fell a great deal. In fact, impaired driving fatalities dropped by more than 50 percent between 1982 and 2013.
Of course, some of that has to do with a collective change in attitude. There is a greater awareness. We recognize the dangers. It has largely become socially unacceptable to get behind the wheel after a night of drinking.
But we can’t discount the fact that harsher penalties have an impact too. This is especially true where repeat offenders are concerned. For example, almost all states increase the fines and potential jail time with each DUI offense. Most repeat offenders will also have their license suspended for an increasing amount of time, some without allowances for work and school.
Additionally, about half of all states require repeat offenders to pay for installation of an ignition interlock device on any vehicle they will be driving.
By federal estimates, these devices have slashed re-arrest rates by nearly 70 percent, so long as the devices are in use.
Wallet Hub researchers found on the whole, “red” conservative states tended to be stricter on DUIs than “blue” more liberal states, with the former ranking an average of 23 and the latter ranking an average of 28.
Arizona was deemed the No. 1 strictest state for DUIs, requiring a 10-day minimum for a first offense, 90-day minimum for a second offense and an automatic felony charge for a third offense. Licenses are administratively suspended for up to 3 months.
Massachusetts, meanwhile, tied for 23rd with Alabama and Arkansas. There is no minimum sentence for first-time offenders, though we do impose a 30-day minimum for a second-time offender. A third DUI offense is deemed an automatic felony. Plus, old DUIs are factored into penalties for new crimes for life. Most states have a range of between 5 and 12 years for prior crimes to be considered. Finally, DUIs come with an administrative license suspension for up to 3 months.
The metrics weighed by the analysts in their ranking included:
- Minimum jail time for first and second-offenses
- When DUIs are automatically deemed felonies
- How long previous DUIs factor into penalties for a new DUI
- Whether there are higher penalties for high blood-alcohol concentration
- Minimum fines
- Child endangerment protections
- When or if ignition interlock is mandatory, and for how long
- Whether alcohol abuse assessment is mandatory
Massachusetts law regarding DUI penalties is codified in Mass. General Law Part 1, Title XIV, Chapter 90, Section 24.
If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston drunk driving accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Strictest and Most Lenient States on DUI, June 18, 2015, Wallet Hub
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Alleged Drunk Driving Crash in Beverly Proves Fatal, June 9, 2015, Boston Drunk Driving Accident Attorney Blog