High-speed pursuits in Massachusetts legislation proposal to increase penalties


A man teaching his pit bull how to drive leads police on a high-speed chase. (CNN)

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – The Northwestern District Attorney is urging lawmakers to strengthen penalties for drivers that lead police on a high-speed chase.

Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan submitted written testimony to the Joint Committee on Transportation in support of the legislation. A virtual hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday regarding traffic offenses and automobile dealers and transactions.

Bill H.3420 is an Act relative to dangerous high speed pursuits introduced by Representative Daniel Carey D-Easthampton is supported by State Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland and others. Northwestern First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne is scheduled to testify during the public hearing held by the Joint Committee on Transportation regarding the proposal.

The measure would strengthen the penalties to make such crimes felonies punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Currently under Massachusetts law, fleeing from police is a misdemeanor punishable by a $100 fine.

Petitioners include:

  • Daniel R. Carey, 2nd Hampshire
  • Patricia A. Duffy, 5th Hampden
  • Joseph D. McKenna, 18th Worcester
  • Tricia Farley-Bouvier, 3rd Berkshire
  • Natalie M. Blais, 1st Franklin
  • Joseph F. Wagner, 8th Hampden
  • Donald R. Berthiaume, Jr., 5th Worcester
  • Brian M. Ashe, 2nd Hampden

According to a news release sent to 22News from the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office Spokesperson Laurie Loisel, the House bill, “An Act Relative to High Speed Pursuits” would bring Massachusetts in line with every other New England State in making fleeing police after being signaled to stop a serious crime.

In written testimony by DA Sullivan calls the stricter penalties “long overdue and necessary.” It will help “create safer roadways and prevent deaths and serious injuries caused by motorists who engaged in high speed pursuits,” he wrote.

The virtual hearing also includes bills involving traffic offenses, automobile dealers and auto transactions. Bill H.3706 filed in April by Gov. Baker that would give municipalities the option to deploy red-light cameras at chosen intersections, allow law enforcement to stop motorists for not wearing a seatbelt and strengthen penalties for driving recklessly, causing serious bodily injury or causing death while a license is suspended.

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