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Refusal of Field Sobriety Tests in Massachusetts OUI/DUI/DWI Cases

photo_3853199305_ff090b7cfc_t.jpg In Massachusetts, the crimes of operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a very serious criminal offense, for which a conviction can severely impact your future. The official charge is Massachusetts is known as Operating Under the Influence (OUI), and any individual found to be operating a vehicle after having ingested any alcoholic beverage or chemical substance that impairs their ability to drive safely may be charged. In order to establish the requisite probable cause necessary to make an arrest, police officers use field sobriety tests, breath tests, blood tests and other tests to determine whether a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The use of Field Sobriety Tests has become an increasingly regular routine in the United States, as they allow police officers to make roadside determinations of intoxication. In the event that you refused field sobriety tests, a talented Boston, Massachusetts OUI attorney will be able to file what is known as a Motion in Limine to prohibit the introduction of a defendant’s refusal of field sobriety tests. With the help of your attorney, your refusal of field sobriety tests will be blocked from trial, poking a huge hole in the prosecution’s strongest piece of evidence. Under the current case law in this area, the refusal to submit to field sobriety testing is not admissible as evidence against the defendant. Commonwealth v. McGrail, Commonwealth v. Ranieri.

WHAT IS A MOTION IN LIMINE?

A motion in limine is a legal written request filed by an attorney at a pre-trial hearing requesting that the judge rule that certain testimony regarding evidence or information may be excluded from the trial. A Motion in Limine means that the admissibility determination will be held away from the eyes and ears of the jury in a private meeting before the judge. This distinction prevents the jury from being prejudiced against the defendant due to evidence of the test result. In OUI cases, the prosecution must prove that (1) the car was operated, (2) on a public way or area members of the public have a right of access to, and (3) the operator of the vehicle was under the influence of some intoxicant. Thus, without the evidence of a refusal to take a field sobriety test, the remaining evidence may generally fall short in proving that the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Similar to this motion is what is known as a Pierre Motion, which works to suppress the results of a breath test in OUI cases. In Commonwealth v. Pierre, the Court held that a breath test result is considered to be inadmissible at trial unless and until the Commonwealth proves the result’s admissibility by establishing compliance with breath test regulations. In the event that the administration of the test was not in compliance with State standards, the breath test result is not considered reliable evidence and therefore the test result will be barred from entered as evidence. Especially in OUI cases, having a smart and strategic OUI defense lawyer on your side can be hugely beneficial to the outcome of your case.

The most common field sobriety tests utilized by police officers are the walk-and-turn test, the one-leg stand test, alcohol breath test, and horizontal gaze nystagmus test. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration permits field sobriety tests to be administered because they have found the results of these tests to be reliable indicators for distinguishing blood alcohol content beyond the legal limit for driving, assuming that the tests were administered in a standardized manner by a properly trained police officer. Thus, a motion in limine can be an extremely beneficial tool to suppress evidence that the defendant refused to take field sobriety tests. Tests such as these are usually the crucial piece of evidence in an OUI case, as without it, extraneous factors such as blood-shot eyes, swerving while driving, or even slurred words can be explained in many other ways.

In the event that you have been arrested for Operating under the Influence in Massachusetts and you refused to submit to field sobriety tests, please consult with an experienced Boston OUI defense attorney. Only an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney will be educated in the specific laws and matters of OUI, and will be able to have your refusal of field sobriety tests barred from evidence. This legal knowledge and experience enables The Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy to construct the most legally persuasive defense strategies and obtain the most favorable outcome in OUI cases. The Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy has been providing the greater Boston area with successful OUI defense for over 18 years. For additional information about a motion in limine, or to discuss whether this pre-trial motion is available in your case, contact Attorney Murphy for a free and confidential discussion of your case today. Call 617-367-0450 or email Attorney Murphy directly using our online contact form.