Prescription Drug OUI in Massachusetts

In a 2017 Massachusetts appellate case, the defendant appealed from convictions for operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs (M.G. L. c. 90, § 24(1)(a)(1)) and negligent operation of a motor vehicle (M.G. L. c. 90, § 24(2)(a)). The case arose when a cop in an unmarked car saw the defendant drift over the centerline and travel toward him head-on. The cop swerved to avoid crashing into the defendant, and then he pulled her over.

The cop, who’d known her for a minimum of 23 years, observed she “wasn’t right” but was sleepy, lethargic, and disheveled with a low attention span and a physical unsteadiness. A different cop grabbed her hand to stop her from falling while she was performing the nine-step walk and turn test and the one-leg stand.

The defendant said she’d taken Sertraline, Symbicort, Albuterol, Spiriva, Singulair, Prozac, Dextral, and Paxil on that day. The officer asked to see her prescriptions, and she only produced Lorazepam and Oxycodone prescription bottles. The Oxycodone bottle included only a single pill, even though the prescription was for 75 pills and had been refilled three days before. The defendant had a redness around her nose, and it was visible in her booking photograph.

On appeal, she argued that the evidence was not enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she’d taken narcotics, depressants, or stimulants and that the evidence was not enough to show she knew or should have known about the prescription drug side effects. She also claimed she was involuntarily intoxicated, due to her lack of knowledge of the side effects of the medication.

The appellate court explained that based on the redness around the defendant’s nose and the testimony, the judge could have concluded that the redness was a result of the defendant’s habit of snorting her medications. The defendant had snorted a Percocet and also probably a Lorezapam. There was additional evidence to support the prosecution’s argument that she snorted medication, since she had a change purse that allowed her to take her prescriptions in this manner.

Further corroboration of the defendant’s practice of snorting medication could be found in the fact that she had in her possession a little change purse containing two straws and two pills. Testing showed that one of the pills had acetaminophen and codeine, and another had zolpidem (Ambien), and there were residues of these drugs inside one straw.

At trial, a drug certificate was introduced, and it identified oxycodone as an opium derivative and cocaine as a coca leaf derivative. The Commonwealth argued at trial that the defendant had been driving while under the influence of codeine, oxycodone, and cocaine.

The defendant argued that the evidence wasn’t enough to show she ingested a stimulant or depressant. She argued that the law prohibited operating vehicles while under the influence of narcotics. The appellate court explained that narcotics include opium, coca leaves, and their derivatives. It reasoned that the evidence supported a finding that the defendant had taken a narcotic beyond a reasonable doubt.

The evidence showed the defendant had snorted medication without a physician’s order, and she knew it was not a good idea to take the medication in large quantities in this contraindicated way while also snorting illegal drugs. It concluded the defendant couldn’t claim she was involuntarily intoxicated and affirmed the judgments.

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

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