An interesting opinion was issued this month by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (our highest appellate court) regarding "Melanie's Law.". Prior to the decision, the MA law regarding penalties for a driver who refuses a breathalyzer test after a prior conviction and a second arrest for OUI was interpreted to require a license suspension of three years. In it's decision, the Court created a distinction between those drivers who were actually convicted of a prior OUI and those who, after "admitting sufficient facts to find guilt," have their second case continued without a finding. A continuation without a finding, or CWOF, is obviously not the same as a guilty plea, but trial courts had been treating CWOF the same as convictions for the purposes of imposing license suspensions.
Focus sing on the literal language of the law, the Court held that those who merely admitted sufficient facts do not have a prior conviction, and should only have their license suspended for 180 days. Although the decision is important and could put some convicted drunk drivers back on the road a lot earlier, the impact of the case may be short lived. Legislators in MA are already talking about closing this loophole by changing the law to also apply the 3 year suspension to those who agreed to a plea involving a continuation without finding.