During the Pandemic, driver’s habits changed, leading to fewer traffic accidents overall, but higher road deaths. Traffic deaths in Massachusetts in 2021 were the worst since 2007. These figures are part of a concerning national trend reported by the National Highway Transportation Authority that shows that traffic deaths rose in 2021. Alcohol and drug use have been shown to be a factor but carelessness and speeding were a result of reduced traffic. Drivers were going faster and not using seatbelts. The decrease in vehicles on the road during the Pandemic gave drivers a sense of fearlessness that resulted in higher speeds and greater fatalities.
Drunk driving and drugged driving have always been a factor in road deaths. The concerning statistics about road deaths have led states to consider a crackdown on drunk driving and driving under the influence. Massachusetts has revived a law that would crack down on drugged driving in particular.
The new figures show that road deaths have disproportionately affected communities of color and low income communities. Essential workers were also the ones most likely to be involved in traffic accidents and fatalities. The proposed Massachusetts Law would provide for specially trained Drug Recognition Experts who can test for driving under the influence using a variety of metrics. One of them is the controversial THC blood test. Measures of THC work differently than blood alcohol levels. THC levels are an unreliable measure of intoxication, as, depending on whether the person is a regular user, they could indicate marijuana use several days ago. Other metrics such as heart rate have been criticized for indicating a variety of conditions that might not be intoxication.
The evidence could be highly subjective. In fact, a recent study by Mass General Hospital of portable brain scanning equipment showed that false positives turned up in 34 percent of people tested. The new law would require an automatic suspension of a driver’s license for anyone who refuses to take the portable drug test. Those who disagree with the law say that it could effectively re-criminalize marijuana use in Massachusetts. Given that road deaths disproportionately affect communities of color, it could hurt those people it should be protecting by bringing more people into the criminal justice system through unnecessary traffic stops and highly subjective evidence that could result in life-changing convictions.
Being charged with a DUI is serious, especially if you have a record of previous DUIs. When driving under the influence is involved, or driving recklessly, punishments become severe, especially if there are injuries or deaths. The person driving is seen as endangering others by driving under the influence or engaging in reckless conduct.
When convicted of a DUI or OUI, you can be issued with a fine, sentenced to jail time or probation, required to undergo alcohol or substance awareness training and your license can be revoked for a period of time, even for life. In Massachusetts, an OUI means “operating under the influence,” which means you don’t even have to be driving the vehicle to be convicted. Your third conviction for driving or operating under the influence is automatically a felony. The penalties and fines become increasingly severe as you accumulate more offenses. For a first offense you can serve up to 2 and a half years in jail, have your license revoked for a year and pay between $500 and $5000 in fines. A fifth conviction for a DUI could result in having your license suspended for life, in addition to up to 5 years in prison and fines of up to $50,000.
Those accused of multiple DUIs do have the opportunity to re-evaluate prior convictions. With the failure of breath-test technology, the often subjective nature of the evidence and possible violations of police procedure, people can rack up OUIs that lead to serious consequences. An experienced Boston criminal defense attorney will explore all avenues of justice, including re-evaluating any previous unfair convictions.
Reckless Driving or Negligent Driving
Reckless or negligent driving can lead to criminal penalties, even if there is no accident, injury or death. You can be charged with reckless driving or operating to endanger. These are both criminal charges, with serious consequences. You might think you are being stopped for speeding but end up accused of reckless driving. The interpretation of these charges is broad enough to allow for significant error. You need an experienced Boston Criminal Defense Attorney to help you fight reckless driving or negligent endangerment charges.
Penalties for first time offenders could result in imprisonment up to 2 years and/or a fine. A second offense could land you in prison up to 2.5 years with a fine.
Accident or Death Caused By a Driver
If you were involved in an accident that caused death to another person you could be facing homicide charges. While some accidents, even those that cause death, can be proved to be misdemeanors, there are many ways that your involvement could lead to extremely serious felony charges. Let’s look at some of the situations in which a person could find themselves accused of a crime for driving recklessly or under the influence and causing harm to another person:
Misdemeanor Motor Vehicle Homicide: If a person is driving recklessly and causes the death of another person, the motor vehicle homicide could be a misdemeanor or a felony. If it’s proved that the person was driving recklessly, but not under the influence, motor vehicle homicide is convicted as a misdemeanor. You could still serve up to 2 and half years in prison for misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide, be fined and have your license revoked for 15 years.
Felony Motor Vehicle Homicide: If it’s proved that you were driving recklessly while under the influence and you cause the death of another person you could be convicted of Motor Vehicle Homicide, which is an extremely serious crime. You could be imprisoned for up to 15 years, fined and have your license revoked for 15 years.
Felony DUI: You can be charged with a felony DUI if it’s your third DUI, if you were driving in a negligent fashion, or if you caused the death or injury of another person. Your DUI could become a felony even if it’s your first offense under these circumstances. You will likely face prison time, loss of certain rights, and irreparable damage to your reputation.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident (Hit and Run): Any driver who is involved in an accident has a duty of care to an injured person or damaged property. Leaving the scene of a personal injury not resulting in death is a misdemeanor. It can result in imprisonment up to 2 years or a fine of up to $1000. Leaving the scene of an accident causing death can result in up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $5000.
If you drive a motor vehicle in Massachusetts, there are many circumstances in which you are at risk of committing and being convicted of a serious crime. Because there are so many charges associated with motor vehicle accidents, it’s extremely important to retain an experienced Boston Criminal Defense attorney immediately, even if you think you did nothing wrong.
At Dhar Law we have extensive experience defending every kind of crime. We are strong advocates for the right to a fair trial, and formidable defense attorneys who can help those accused of motor vehicle crimes to withstand the questioning of prosecutors and the pressure of a criminal trial. If possible we work to ensure that you don’t have to stand trial for motor vehicle offenses. Please contact us immediately at 617- 880-6155 to see how we can help.