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Articles Posted in OUI/DUI/DWI

In Commonwealth v. Botelho, the defendant appealed after being convicted of a second offense OUI. The only issue before the jury at trial was whether he was drunk at the time of the collision or whether his demeanor arose out of his hearing impairment plus the effect of the crash.

The case arose one night in 2012, when an officer responded to a dispatch about a one-vehicle accident. The defendant was discovered behind the steering wheel of a truck that had crashed into a utility pole. There was significant damage at the front of the car, and the side air bag had deployed. When the defendant got out of the truck, he said his stabilizer broke. He said he hadn’t been drinking.

However, the arresting officer later testified that the defendant’s speech was slurred and his eyes were bloodshot, and that he smelled of alcohol. When he administered two field sobriety tests, the defendant tried to perform the tests before he’d finished giving instructions. The officer failed the defendant for both tests and then arrested him and charged him with OUI and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.
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In Commonwealth v. Cormier, the defendant was arrested for an OUI and speeding in 2012. He agreed to take a Breathalyzer test. The results of the test showed he was above the statutory limit for alcohol consumption.

During discovery, the defendant asked for the manual for the particular Breathalyzer machine that had given results in his case. The Office of Alcohol Testing (OAT) responded there was no manual. In response, the defense asked to exclude the breath test under 501 Code Mass. Regs § 2.04(f), which requires OAT to develop and maintain an operator’s manual.

The defense asked for an evidentiary hearing. At the hearing, an OAT supervisor testified that the machine in question was new and had only been introduced the year before the defendant’s arrest and that it was in use throughout the state. She explained the machine had two parts. The information related to the first part, the inner workings that measured breath, wasn’t in a manual because the manufacturer had a proprietary interest in the technology. The second part related to state-specific software that had to be installed because of different breath test requirements across the country.
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Under G. L. c. 90, § 24(1)(a)(1), anybody in Massachusetts who operates a motor vehicle in a place where the public has access with .08 blood alcohol content, or while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, narcotics, depressants, stimulants, or glue vapors can be punished by a fine of $500-$5,000 or by imprisonment for not more than 2 1/2 years, or both. A person who is convicted, is placed on probation, or otherwise pleads guilty to an OUI is subject to an assessment of $250, which cannot be reduced or waived by the court.

If the defendant was previously convicted or assigned to an alcohol substance education or rehabilitation or treatment program, the defendant faces a fine of $600-$1,000 and imprisonment of 60 days-2 1/2 years. The sentence may not be reduced to less than 30 days, and the defendant won’t be eligible for probation, parole, or furlough.

In Commonwealth v. Nahimana, the appellate court reviewed the sufficiency of evidence for the OUI conviction of a defendant who was not given a breath or blood test. The case arose when the defendant was driving 25 mph on a 55 mph roadway after midnight, and a state trooper who was off-duty pulled him over. The trooper observed that the defendant’s slow speed was causing other cars to swerve or hit the brakes. He also saw that the defendant’s car failed to signal when crossing about 75% of the left lane, before moving back into his own lane.
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Last month, prosecutors in certain Massachusetts counties suspended the use of Breathalyzer test results in OUI cases. Meanwhile, the State Police reviewed whether the test procedures were reliable. In March, prosecutors were told about concerns with the tests, which caused a number of attorneys to look at older cases to see whether there were Breathalyzer test results with issues.

A spokesperson for the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security stated that when properly maintained, the breath test instrument is one of the most accurate tools available to identify drunk drivers. However, the district attorney for Middlesex County claimed that the issue was the calibration of Breathalyzers, and her staff was temporarily ordered to stop using test results in cases. Similarly, the Cape and Islands district attorney issued an order not to introduce the breath test in any case until further information is obtained. One official initially claimed that 69 out of 6,000 tests administered throughout the state were involved.

At the end of April, the Public Safety Secretary Daniel Bennett announced that only a small number of 39,000 breath analysis tests were flawed because police officers had made mistakes calibrating the machines. He claimed the tests themselves were not malfunctioning.
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If you hurt someone while drunk driving in Massachusetts, you may be charged with multiple counts, some of which may seem quite similar. In a recent case, a Massachusetts defendant was convicted of (1) drunk driving (operating under the influence or OUI), (2) drunk driving that caused a serious bodily injury, (3) driving on a suspended license, (4) manslaughter by motor vehicle, and (5) motor vehicle homicide. The case arose because the defendant was driving drunk on the wrong side of an access road and crashed into a Saturn. A 17-year-old passenger in the Saturn was killed and the driver seriously injured.

A state police trooper later testified that when the crash happened, the defendant was driving at 55 mph in a 25-mph zone, and the defendant didn’t try to avoid the crash. The defendant claimed he had drunk two 16-oz. mojitos and a vodka-Red Bull drink before the crash happened. The trooper also noted the defendant’s slurred speech, glassy eyes, unsteadiness, and failure to pass a sobriety test. The trooper arrested the defendant.

During the booking process, blood ran from the defendant’s ear, and he asked for medical assistance. Paramedics examined him. He agreed to a breathalyzer test with two measurements, and his blood alcohol level measured at .17 and .18. Next, he was taken to the hospital, where his blood alcohol level was measured at .15.
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On this blog, we often discuss how due to the serious nature of criminal offenses, the government bears the burden of proving all elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in certain cases, that is not the only burden of proof that the Commonwealth must bear. For example, as one Appeals Court decision affirms, in charging and sentencing based upon prior offenses, the prosecution must also prove that it was the same individual who committed the prior relevant offenses.In the case, Commonwealth v. Cruz, Mass. App. Ct. (2013), the defendant was subjected to a two part trial. In the initial phase of the trial, the jury convicted the defendant of operating under the influence of intoxicating liquor (OUI) and of negligent operation of a motor vehicle. In the second part, the jury convicted the defendant on the subsequent (third) offense portion of the operating under the influence charge. However, the defendant, Michelle Cruz, appealed on the later charge, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to establish that she was the individual who committed the two prior OUI offenses.

According to the opinion, the only evidence introduced by the Commonwealth to establish the defendant’s identity, was a certified copy of Michele MacCord’s 1993 OUI conviction and a certified copy of Michele Fortenbacher’s 2003 OUI conviction. Both of those conviction records reflected a birth date of March 17, 1962.
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The Supreme Judicial Court issued an opinion earlier this month, that held the common practice of eliciting opinion testimony from police officers regarding impairment in OUI cases is not permissible as evidence.This case is noteworthy, because in practice, many prosecutors have developed a habit of simply asking officers their opinion regarding whether a driver was impaired at the time of the arrest, which the court held is a legal issue upon which a lay witness is not qualified to speak.

The case involved the stop of a driver in 2009. In addition to recanting facts regarding the circumstances of the driver’s field sobriety tests, the prosecutor asked the officer whether he had formed any opinions regarding the driver’s sobriety. To this, the officer replied, “I believed that his ability to drive was diminished.” This is testimony that the court held was impermissible, as it comes close to an opinion on the ultimate issue of guilt or innocence, in this case the standard for the OUI charge is whether “the defendant’s consumption of alcohol diminished the defendant’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.” Therefore, due to the well established law that “[n]o witness, including a police witness, may testify as to a defendant’s guilt or innocence,” this type of testimony is not allowed.
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If this is your first time being charged with Operating Under the Influence, or OUI, you may be feeling incredibly stressed and uncertain of what’s to come. There are also some things you should know about the nature of the allegations against you.First and foremost, even in the case of a first offense, OUI is deemed a criminal offense. The crime itself is defined as a person operating a motor vehicle (which can include a boat or other vehicle, not only a car), while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Keep in mind also that “operating a vehicle” does not necessarily mean driving on the street. Depending upon the circumstances, even sitting within a car to sober up could be considered operating a vehicle, depending upon the officer’s impression of your behavior, and also the surrounding factual circumstances. In other words, it doesn’t take erratic driving or a dramatic car crash to potentially implicate these charges.

The state of Massachusetts felt that current law was not harsh enough on drivers found guilty of OUI, so in 2005 it passed Melanie’s Law, increasing the penalties for OUI cases. Due to the state’s stance on these types of cases, it is of the utmost importance that you hire a Massachusetts defense lawyer who is knowledgeable about the nature of the charges, and also experienced in representing individuals charged with OUI offenses.

For example, an experienced Massachusetts OUI defense attorney may successfully be able to reduce the potential sentence you are facing as a first time offender from a maximum of two and a half years in jail, a $5,000 fine, and a five year license suspension, to a state-approved alcohol education program. This reduction is not possible after the first offense, and it is not a default reduction. That means the court will not automatically grant it; your attorney will have to secure it for you.
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Melanie’s Law was enacted to impose harsher penalties and sanctions against people that are charged with Operating Under the Influence in Massachusetts. The law has created new offenses that were not present prior to 2005 when it was signed into law. For instance, if someone who already has their license suspended for a previous operating under the influence (OUI), is arrested for operating under the influence again, they may now be charged with two offenses at the same time: OUI and OUI with a suspended license. This charge requires a mandatory jail sentence of at least one year and can be up to two and a half years, as well as a fine between $2,500-$10,000. In addition, a new crime was created for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol while there was child under the age of 14 in the vehicle. The driver can be charged with not only OUI, but also child endangerment while OUI. The punishment for a first offense is 90 days to 2.5 years imprisonment, a fine between $1,000-$5,000, as well as a yearlong suspension of the driver’s license. The crime of Manslaughter by Motor Vehicle was also created and implemented by Melanie’s Law. If a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol while operating a vehicle commits manslaughter, the driver will be charged with Manslaughter by Motor Vehicle. The minimum sentence is 5 years imprisonment and can be up to 20 years, as well as a fine up to $25,000.

Under Melanie’s Law, if a person has been convicted of OUI two (2) times, and is eligible for a hardship license, or in order to have their license reinstated, the driver will be required to have an Ignition Interlock Device installed in any vehicle that that person owns, leases or operates. The driver is required to pay for the expenses to install the device as well. The device requires that the driver have a blood alcohol reading of less than .02 in order for the vehicle to start. If the driver registers higher than .02, the vehicle will not start. The driver must report to company that installed the device every 30 days at which point the vendor uploads the data from the device and transmits it to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. If the device is necessary under the hardship license requirement, then the device must be used for the entire life of the hardship license, as well as an additional two (2) years after the license has been reinstated. If the driver is simply eligible for license reinstatement, then the device will be required for a mandatory two years. If the driver does not comply with the requirements, their license will be revoked for a minimum of 10 years, with the possibility of the revocation being for life.

Melanie’s Law does not specifically relate to just OUI offenders either. It is also applicable to persons that allow or hire an unlicensed individual or an individual with a suspended license to operate a motor vehicle. If an employer hires an individual with a suspended license to operate a motor vehicle, there is a $500 fine for the first offense, and up to one year in jail for a second offense. If person that owns or is in possession of a vehicle allows an individual that is unlicensed to operate the vehicle, the first offense is a sentence of one-year imprisonment and a fine up to $500. The same penalty is applicable if someone allows a person with an Ignition Interlock restriction to operate a vehicle without the device.
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In Massachusetts, the terms operating under the influence (OUI), driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI) are synonymous. The official charge is Massachusetts is known as Operating Under the Influence (OUI). This charge is a criminal offense in which a person is found to be operating a vehicle after having ingested any alcoholic beverage or chemical substance which impairs their ability to drive safely.Additionally, with the passage of Melanie’s Law in 2005, the penalties for OUI can be incredibly harsh. First time offenders may face a potential sentence of up to 2.5 years in prison, license suspension for one year, and an accompanying fine of $500-$5,000. However, if it is your first offense, your attorney may be able to convince the court to allow you to complete an alcohol education course in order to reduce your license suspension period.

Many individuals may be surprised to learn that the OUI laws apply not only to operation of a car or other motor vehicle on the roadway, but also to any other motor vehicle, such as a boat. Boating under the Influence (BUI) also carries a potential penalty of up to 30 months in prison and/or a $1,000 fine,in addition to loss of license and registration for up to a year. Additionally, if convicted of a BUI which also caused substantial bodily injury, an individual could face up to 10 years in prison, and a fine of up to $5,000. Furthermore, Massachusetts law explicitly states that, by choosing to operate a vessel on the state’s waters, you have given your implied consent to submit to alcohol testing if you are arrested for a BUI.
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