Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

What is Melanie’s Law?

In 2005, the state of Massachusetts began to recognize the offense of child endangerment while operating a vehicle under the influence. The state of Massachusetts more commonly refers to this offense as Melanie’s Law. In addition to fines, the loss of a driver’s license, and time in prison, this offense can also result in serious obstacles in a person’s career and education as well as the social stigma of being branded as a drunk driver. If you are charged with child endangerment while OUI, it is critical to quickly obtain the services of a seasoned criminal defense attorney.

Laws Regarding OUI and Child Endangerment

If you are charged with OUI with child endangerment, the prosecution must establish two elements beyond a reasonable doubt. One, it must be shown that a person was operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicating substance. Two, it must established that the a child under the age of 14 was inside the vehicle at the time of operation.

Chapter 90 Section 24v of Massachusetts law lists the various penalties a person can face for child endangerment with OUI. For a first offense, a person faces a minimum of 90 days in jail and a fine between $1,000 to $5,000 as well as a driver’s license suspension of one year. For a second or additional offense, a person faces a maximum of two and a half years jail or five years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000 as well as driver’s license suspension for three years.

Involvement by the Department of Children and Families

If the children involved in the offense are the driver’s children (and often when the children are not), the state’s Department of Children and Families is likely to become involved if it believes it is in the child’s best interests to be placed in a foster home.

Defending Against OUI Child Endangerment Charges

There are numerous ways in which strong defenses can be raised in response to charges of OUI child endangerment. Sometimes, defenses can be raised that because law enforcement forgot to obtain information about the children involved in the offense, prosecution is unable to establish that the offense even occurred. Other defenses rely on arguing that prosecution cannot establish an OUI offense, which is required for a charge of OUI with child endangerment to stand. To establish that a person was intoxicated, law enforcement will rely on several different types of evidence including the odor of alcohol, glassy and bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and field sobriety tests. If this evidence can be weakened, a person’s chances of successfully defending the case increase significantly.

Speak with an Experienced OUI Lawyer

If you or a loved one is charged with child endangerment with OUI, immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact Edward R. Molari, Attorney at Law today to schedule an initial free consultation. Our firm has helped many individuals who have faced similar situations and we understand what it takes to make sure that your case resolves in the best possible manner.