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DA credits Melanie's Law for tough sentence

By Don Conkey And John P. Kelly
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Jul 24, 2008 @ 03:10 AM

PLYMOUTH -
Saturday marks another unhappy birthday for Alfred J. Gawlik Jr., who will turn 54 in a Plymouth County jail cell, five days into a 4½-year drunken-driving sentence.
Gawlik committed his crime on the night of his 52nd birthday, rear-ending a truck in Hingham after an afternoon spent drinking beer at the beach. Police said it was his seventh arrest for driving while drunk.
In a one-day bench trial on Monday, Plymouth County prosecutors proved that Gawlik had three prior convictions, not six. Hingham District Court Judge Lance Garth sentenced Gawlik, who lived in Abington at the time of the crime, to 2½ years in jail for the fourth offense plus two years for driving to endanger.
Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said the sentence was just shy of the five-year maximum for repeat offenders under Melanie's Law, which passed in late 2005 and toughened the state's drunken-driving laws.
Friday is the fifth anniversary of the death of Melanie Powell, the 13-year-old Marshfield girl for whom the law is named. She was hit by a repeat drunken driver as she crossed the street on her way to a birthday party.
The law's hallmark is rigid sentencing guidelines for repeat offenders, but other aspects have an impact on drivers like Gawlik
For example, because Gawlik was convicted of a fourth offense, the district attorney's office was able, under the law, to seize and auction his 2001 Dodge Ram truck.
"To me, that means we're taking a weapon away from a dangerous drunken driver," Cruz said in an interview.
He said money from the sale will be divided between his office, local police and a trust fund for raising awareness of drunken driving.
Gawlik also faces a 10-year loss of his driver's license under the law. If the license is renewed, he will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in his vehicle. Such a device prevents the vehicle's engine from starting unless the driver's blood-alcohol level is well below the legal limit.
In 1997, Gawlik was sentenced to one to three years in jail for a drunken-driving hit-and-run accident in Carver. A Plymouth man and his 10-year-old daughter were hurt in the accident.
The accident in Hingham occurred on July 26, 2006, and it was minor in comparison. The two occupants of the truck Gawlik hit - a man and his 2-year-old son - were not hurt. In a "witness impact" statement, the man said he thought the accident would have been much worse had they not been in a full-size truck, said Cruz's spokeswoman, Bridget Norton Middleton.
The accident occurred at Main Street and Linscott Road. Gawlik admitted to having had five beers and failed a field sobriety test, Hingham police Lt. Michael Peraino said. Empty cans of beer were found in his truck.
Peraino said a record check done at the time showed that Gawlik had been convicted on six drunken-driving charges.
Cruz said old convictions going back to the 1970s and difficulty tracking out-of-state convictions can complicate efforts in court to prove an exact number of prior convictions.
He said he did not know what led to the discrepancy in Gawlik's history of drunken-driving convictions.

http://www.patriotledger.com/news/x...lanie-s-Law-for-Abington-man-s-tough-sentence
 

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4 1/2 years is considered a "tough" sentence? Oh yeah, I forgot that MA lawmakers don't seem to look at the bigger picture and how it relates to those who are victims of drunk drivers. :DP:
 

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4 1/2 is a long time, i couldn't imagine doing one day in there.
I couldn't imagine spending a day in custody either, but then I choose not to drive under the influence - or do anything else that would land me in jail.

The plain and simple fact is that those who are OUI jeopardize all of our lives in one way or another. What I wouldn't give to not lose a loved one to scum like that....
 
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