In a recent Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts written opinion regarding a Massachusetts drunk driving case, the court reversed the decision of the trial court convicting the defendant of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (OUI) and negligent operation of a motor vehicle, holding that the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to suppress. The Supreme Judicial Court concluded that blood drawn from the defendant at the hospital after a crash that was then obtained by law enforcement by warrant and tested was inadmissible as the defendant did not provide his consent to have his blood tested.
Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the driver of a pickup truck lost control and collided with a tree off the side of the road, suffering extensive front-end damage. No other cars were involved in the collision. When the police arrived, the defendant was seated in the driver’s seat and admitted to being the operator of the vehicle. The officer noticed that the defendant was unsteady on his feet and showed other signs of intoxication, including slurring his speech, glassy eyes, and the strong odor of alcohol emanating from the defendant’s person.
The defendant was transported to a nearby hospital, where the officer gave hospital personnel a “preservation of evidence letter” seeking to preserve any blood drawn during medical treatment. Police then obtained a search warrant for the defendant’s blood. The blood was seized, transported, and tested at a crime lab for blood alcohol content. The defendant was charged with an OUI in violation of §24(1)(a)(1) and negligent operation of a motor vehicle in violation of § 24 (2) (a). The police never attempted or obtained the defendant’s consent to test his blood.
The defendant challenged the admissibility of the test results, arguing that the test was done in violation of his statutory rights under Massachusetts law. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, reversing his conviction. In doing so, the court took the opportunity to explain the intent behind Massachusetts OUI law, and how consent was still required for the blood to be tested, even if it was provided to the hospital.
The court began by noting that in a prosecution under 24(1)(a), where the Commonwealth wishes to have admitted blood alcohol content evidence arising from testing or analysis of a defendant’s blood done “by or at the direction of” police, police must first obtain the defendant’s consent to the “chemical test or analysis” of his blood that may result from such evidence, regardless of whomever first drew the blood. The court goes on to note that the police were required by the statute to secure consent for the blood drawing and testing, as it falls to the Legislature to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of the statutory scheme, as it appears to have done by providing that a refusal to consent results in an automatic license suspension.
Here, the court agreed with the defendant that his consent was never acquired and that his consent was required, even though his blood was drawn by another party other than the police. As a result, admitting the test results violated his statutory rights under Massachusetts law. Thus, the court determined that the defendant’s motion to suppress should have been granted.
Have You Been Arrested for a Massachusetts OUI?
If you have recently been arrested for a drunk driving offense in Massachusetts, call Attorney Patrick J. Murphy to see how he can help. Attorney Murphy is a dedicated criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling all types of serious cases, including OUI offenses. He understands the state’s complex implied consent laws and uses his advanced knowledge to defend his clients at every stage of the legal process. To learn more about how Attorney Murphy can help you defend against the charges you face, call 617-367-0450 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.