Mass. driver faces 11th alcohol-related charge, police say

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By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / December 6, 2010

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A man arrested on a drunken driving charge in Seekonk over the weekend had an active Massachusetts driver’s license when taken into custody, despite having 10 prior impaired-driving offenses on his record, authorities said.

Vernon Perry, 52, refused a breath test after he was taken into custody, Seekonk police Captain Craig Mace said yesterday.

Perry was driving at a “high rate of speed’’ on Taunton Avenue near Fall River Avenue at about 1:20 a.m. Saturday, police said in a statement. His vehicle crossed over the double yellow line before coming to a stop near Arcade Avenue, according to the statement.

Perry failed several field sobriety tests and his gray 2001 Saturn was impounded, police said.

He was charged with operating under the influence of liquor (11th offense), negligent operation of a motor vehicle, speeding (52 miles per hour in a 40 mile-per-hour zone), and failure to stay within marked lanes.

Perry will probably be arraigned today in Taunton District Court, according to Gregg Miliote, spokesman for the Bristol district attorney’s office.

Mace said Perry had an active Massachusetts license but gave an address in East Providence, R.I. Mace declined to provide a copy of the arrest report yesterday.

A search for Perry’s name in the criminal database on the Rhode Island Judiciary website yielded no results yesterday.

Ann Dufresne, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, said Perry’s driving record here was not available yesterday.

Asked if it was possible for a driver to maintain an active license after so many prior cases, Dufresne said via e-mail, “[We] can’t make any assumptions until we see his driving record,’’ which would not be available until today.

Under state law, drivers can have their license suspended for up to one year for their first operating under the influence conviction, up to two years for their second, up to eight years for their third, and up to 10 years for their fourth, according to documents posted on the Registry’s website.

Drivers can lose their license for life after a fifth offense, documents show.

The Legislature passed Melanie’s Law in 2005 to toughen penalties for drunken driving. The law also requires repeat drunken-driving offenders to install technology in their ignition that keeps their vehicle from starting if they have been drinking.

Mace noted that some of Perry’s earlier convictions may have come when he was younger and the laws were more lax, and some may have come in other states.

Because of those factors, Mace said, people “can’t pass judgment on the court system or the Registry,’’ two agencies that may have been “hindered by laws [they were] working with at the time.’’

Dorene Englert, a spokeswoman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving based in Irving, Texas, said Massachusetts ranks 31st in the nation in terms of the percentage of traffic fatalities caused by impaired driving.

Thirty-two percent of all traffic deaths in Massachusetts were alcohol-related last year, and there have been 666 drunken-driving fatalities in the state in the past five years, according to data published on the national MADD website.

Englert said her organization would like the Commonwealth to make ignition lock technology mandatory after the first offense, as it is in other states.

Travis Andersen can be reached at