In the recent case of Commonwealth v. Ross, the defendant appealed from an OUI conviction, her fifth offense, and operating a motor vehicle under the influence with a suspended or revoked license under
Massachusetts G. L. c. 90, § 23.
The case arose when the defendant was driving on a part of the road that was under construction. Later, someone working at the construction site would testify he saw the defendant crash into a construction vehicle parked there. The police came to the scene shortly thereafter. A policeman asked to see the defendant’s license, and she told him she didn’t have one that was good. He continued to interview her and then arrested her for an OUI. Her vehicle was searched, and wine bottles were found.
At trial, the defendant claimed her appearance and actions during the interview and arrest were due to the fact she suffered from seizures. The judge bifurcated the trial. In the first part of the trial, the judge heard testimony about what happened leading to the arrest. He ultimately found her guilty of operating a car with a suspended or revoked license and of an OUI. In the second half, the defendant stipulated to the evidence, and the judge determined the defendant was guilty of OUI, fifth offense, and that her license had been revoked for a previous OUI conviction.
The defendant appealed, arguing that the stipulation to the evidence of her prior convictions was in fact a guilty plea and a waiver of jury trial. The appellate court looked at whether the defendant’s stipulation to facts that constituted the elements of the offense was conclusive of guilt, or if the stipulation simply meant that the witnesses would testify in the way the prosecutor asserted they would.
The appellate court explained that the defense attorney had stipulated to the truth of the documents during the pretrial bench conference and at trial. The judge found her guilty and sentenced her based on this stipulation. The appellate court found that the stipulation amounted to a de facto guilty plea, since the Commonwealth hadn’t actually presented any evidence for the judge to consider.
When a defendant pleads guilty, she waives her Constitutional rights. The law requires that a waiver be knowing and voluntary. The judge must make sure it actually is. The appellate court found that, in this case, the plea was not knowing and voluntary.
It also found that the Commonwealth was required to prove the reason the defendant’s license was suspended or revoked to support her conviction for driving on a suspended or revoked license. In fact, the Commonwealth had only addressed this part of the case in the second part of the trial, and it didn’t support its burden of proof with regard to that element of the crime. The appellate court vacated that part of the judgment.
The defendant also argued that the motor vehicle records were admitted in error. She argued that the admission violated her Sixth Amendment confrontation rights. They were admitted as a business record, but the defense attorney didn’t object. They showed her license was suspended or revoked. In order to be admitted as a business record, they would have had to contain another business record to show that the notice was mailed on a particular date. This requirement wasn’t met. However, since the defendant had admitted her license was no good to the police officer, the appellate court found there wasn’t a major risk of miscarriage of justice.
The defendant also argued that her failure to submit to field sobriety tests should not have been admitted in evidence, and this violated her right against self-incrimination. The defense attorney elicited the testimony through cross-examination. The appellate court found no error on this point. The appellate court vacated the indictment charging her with an OUI following revocation of her license for OUI, and the finding was set aside. The case was remanded back to the lower court.
If you are charged in Massachusetts with an OUI, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy today to discuss the criminal charges. Call us at 617-367-0450 or contact us through this website.
More Blog Posts:
Assault and Battery Causing Serious Injury in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published January 14, 2015
Receiving Stolen Property in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published December 15, 2014