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Read our series in The Patriot Ledger Nov. 15-18, 2003.
A Patriot Ledger series: Summary | PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | UPDATES


No jail for 85% convicted
2nd-time offenders already addicted, experts say
Lawyers advise: Refuse blood-alcohol test
Testing the breathalyzer


Michael Carey
Robert Dixon
Silvio L. Marangiello
Kevin R. McPhee
Mary Seaton
Gerard Sheehan
Mark E. Sullivan


TIMELINE: How Massachusetts drunken driving law has changed
Alcohol's causes and effects
How local and state courts treat repeat drunken drivers
Busiest courts in state for drunken driving arraignments

The cost of drunken driving

Massachusetts fails compared with other states
Death toll from drunken driving

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How the Massachusetts drunken driving laws have changed

Changes in the state’s drunken driving law have produced a document that contains close to 10,000 words. This is how the law developed.

1906: First drunken driving law goes on the books

1913: Drunken driving penalty set at "not less than two weeks" and no more than two years in prison

1936: Law rewritten to address multiple offenders and set sentencing guidelines.

1961-'63: Driving under the influence of narcotics, amphetamines, hypnotic drugs, barbiturates, glue vapors, carbon tetrachloride, acetone, ethylene and other intoxicants outlawed

1967: Registrar of motor vehicles authorized to suspend licenses for refusal to submit to alcohol or drug tests

1982: "Last call" law targets "death bars," where a drunken driver who kills someone had his or her last drink

Killing a person while driving drunk can now be prosecuted as a felony crime

Mandatory sentences established for killing someone while driving drunk and for multiple offenders. Alternate sentences still possible. License suspension required for every drunken driver

1984: Following the death of a Weymouth woman, Massachusetts becomes the first state to ban happy hours, ladies' nights, 2-for-1 drink specials and other liquor promotions. The victim fell from a car driven by a friend who drank free beer in a name-that-tune contest at a Braintree restaurant

1986: Safe Roads Act calls for a four-month license suspension for first offenders who refuse to take a breath test, allows police to stop drivers for a blood alcohol breath test, presumes a driver with a blood alcohol level of .10 or higher is drunk, and calls for automatic 90-day license suspension

1994: To discourage underage drinking and driving, the blood alcohol level for any driver under 21 is set at .02.

Fines and jail time for drunken driving increased

Police are authorized to seize the license of any driver who refuses to take a breath test. Automatic 120-day license suspension established for drivers who refuse a breath test the first time and 180 days upon a second arrest and refusal.

1995: New drunken boating law mirrors drunken driving law

2002: Judges are allowed to consider drunken driving convictions more than 10 years in the past

2003: Massachusetts becomes the last state to adopt the "per se" rule, which allows blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher to be considered proof of intoxication. License suspension increased to 180 days for drivers who refuse breath test or who register above the legal limit

Source: Chapter 90, Massachusetts General Laws


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