For Immediate Release - July 09, 2012

AG Coakley Applauds New Laws Closing Drunk Driving Loophole and Criminalizing the Trafficking of Methamphetamine

Both Laws Advocated by AG Coakley and Signed by Governor as Part of FY '13 Budget

AG Coakley Statement on New Legislation Closing Drunk Driving Loophole:

"This law is an important public safety measure.  Drunk drivers are a danger to the public, and this new law closes a loophole by ensuring that repeat drunk drivers are taken off the roads for appropriate periods of time. I applaud Senator Katherine Clark and House Judiciary Chairman Eugene O'Flaherty for their leadership in sponsoring this legislation, and thank Governor Patrick and the Legislature for ensuring that it was passed into law."

Background:

The new legislation strengthens drunk driving laws by closing a dangerous loophole that allowed for less serious license revocation penalties for repeat drunk driving offenders who refuse to take a breathalyzer test.

The loophole was revealed in the recent Supreme Judicial Court decision of Souza v. Registrar of Motor Vehicles. The Legislature closed this loophole in Outside Sections 98-100 in the FY’13 Budget that was signed by the Governor yesterday.

On May 17, the SJC decided the Souza case, ruling that a continuance without a finding (“CWOF”) resolution in cases against defendants accused of operating under the influence were not considered convictions under the law with respect to license suspensions for breath test refusals. The distinction the SJC made in the Souza case is important as the length of suspension depends on the individual’s prior convictions for operating under the influence.  The change in the law closes this loophole, so that an individual’s prior CWOF is treated as a conviction for purposes of the length of license suspension after a breath test refusal. 

AG Coakley Statement on New Law Criminalizing the Trafficking of Methamphetamine:

"Establishing the trafficking of methamphetamines as a crime will help combat the prevalence of this highly addictive and dangerous drug. We must constantly work to update our laws to address the new public safety threats to our communities and our children, and the methamphetamine trafficking law does just that. I want to thank lead sponsors Senator James E. Timilty and Representative Louis L. Kafka, as well as Senator Bruce Tarr for his leadership.  I would also like to thank Governor Patrick for signing this important public safety measure."

Background:

In recent years, Massachusetts law enforcement has seen an increase in the use and large-scale distribution of methamphetamine, a highly addictive and dangerous stimulant drug.  Criminal drug trafficking laws in Massachusetts were most recently and significantly amended in the early 1980s and again in the early 1990s, before the widespread manufacture and use of meth was seen in the Commonwealth.  Although state drug trafficking laws include dangerous drugs such as cocaine and heroin, they had not addressed trafficking in meth, preventing local law enforcement from being able to bring appropriate criminal charges against those who traffic the drug.  This legislation adds methamphetamines to G.L. c. 94C, §32E, the statute criminalizing the trafficking of narcotics.

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