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Regional News

Massachusetts Bill Would Permit Driving Sooner For Some Accused Of DUI

People flagged for possible impaired driving undergo field sobriety tests at a Massachusetts State Police sobriety roadblock in Leominster in 2015. This driver was found not to be under the influence.
Scott J. Croteau
/
MassLive / masslive.com/photos
People flagged for possible impaired driving undergo field sobriety tests at a Massachusetts State Police sobriety roadblock in Leominster in 2015. This driver was found not to be under the influence.

Massachusetts lawmakers are holding a hearing Tuesday on a bill to make it easier for those accused of driving drunk to get back behind the wheel on a restricted basis.

Under current law, a person gets their license taken away when they're charged with drunk driving. Those convicted for the first time can apply for a hardship license after three months so they can get to work or school.

A new bill would allow a first-time offender to apply for such a license three days after they've first appeared in court to face charges.

The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association said Monday that it's inclined to support the bill.

"It certainly would allow somebody to continue their employment," said Mark Leahy, the group's executive director. "There's lots of folks that do require transportation for employment. We think particularly where it is a first-time offender and the case is waiting to be adjudicated, that it doesn't seem unreasonable."

Mary Kate DePamphilis is the program director for MADD Massachusetts, which has concerns about the legislation.

"First time offenders typically aren't first-time offenders," she said. "We know that they've already driven 80 to 200 times drunk before they're caught. So letting them have a hardship license right away can pose to be a dangerous threat to public safety."

DePamphilis said the approach is problematic because it relies on the honor system.

MADD Massachusetts supports a different way to permit a first-time offender to get to school or work. It's a system that wouldn't allow their car to start until they've blown into a breathalyzer and confirmed they're sober.

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