Supreme Judicial Court (October 24, 2006)
Melanie's Law, which allows proof of prior OUI convictions with documentary evidence and without calling a live witness, neither alters a legal rule of evidence in order to convict the defendant nor does it change the burden of proof, and thus, it does not violate the Ex Post Facto or the Confrontation Clauses.
The defendant was charged with OUI, fourth offense. After being convicted of OUI, the Commonwealth intended to prove that it was the defendant's fourth offense pursuant to the newly enacted Melanie's Law. The trial judge reported two questions relative to the validity of the new law. The portion of the law at issue (§6A) permits a defendant's prior OUI conviction(s) to be proven with documentary evidence, which are treated as prima facie evidence of the conviction(s), and specifies that live witnesses are not required to prove prior offenses.
Answering the first reported question in the negative, the SJC held that Melanie's Law does not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Constitution. Specifically, the SJC held that §6A was not a law that altered the legal rules of evidence in order to convict the defendant, and it did not alter the burden of proof for the crime. The court added that §6A was not in conflict with Commonwealth v. Koney, where the SJC held that mere identity of name is not sufficient to indicate the person's identity.
Answering the second reported question in the affirmative, the SJC held that the introduction of documentary evidence of the type listed in §6A (e.g., court, probation, jail, DOC & registry records), when corroborated through other identifying information (e.g., DOB, address, SSN, or physical characteristics), without calling a live witness, is sufficient to identify the defendant as the person with prior convictions. The court also held that permitting the §6A documents to be treated as prima facie evidence does not violate the Due Process or Confrontation Clauses.