State senators will debate next week whether to close a gaping loophole in Massachusetts’ drunk-driving laws that has given thousands of offenders a free pass on their first OUI bust.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled unanimously against the RMV in how it applies administrative suspension for people arrested for OUI's. The heart of the case deals with how the RMV treats a continued without a finding ruling (CWOF). The case clarified that the RMV cannot treat a CWOF as a prior conviction therefore lessening the administrative suspensions for a breath test refusal on a subsequent OUI. For instance, if a person refused a breathyliazer on a second offense and their first offense was a CWOF (typical first offense disposition) then the RMV cannot suspend the individual's license of 3 years as a second offense refusal. This usually comes into play during a second offense but may also have implications for multiple offenders. If a person refuses a breath test on a 4th offense, the license suspension is lifetime. Under the new law, the same person would be subjected to a 5-year suspension.
What the CWOF doesn't do however, as the article fails to point out is give any person a free pass on their first OUI. Even if a case is continued without a finding. In addition to the court license suspension, the defendant will have to complete a driver alcohol school, pay significant fines and be on probation for a year costing over $700 just in probation fees. Though it will be dismissed after the one year, it never evaporates and it's still a first offense. In addition, under the law as it existed, the court will suspend the individuals’ license for 2 years on a second offense, with no importance being placed on how the first offense was treated.
I anticipate that this loophole will be closed shortly, however, at the time of this blog, thousands could benefit from the ruling.