Sufficient Evidence for OUI Conviction in Massachusetts

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.

The trooper pulled the defendant over, but the defendant didn’t pull over entirely and was still sticking into a travel lane. The trooper could smell alcohol as he approached the passenger side. The defendant’s speed was slurred, and his eyes were bloodshot. The defendant claimed he’d only had two beers. Another trooper arrived at the scene.

The defendant stepped out of the car and seemed to have trouble keeping his balance. He swayed back and forth, so the troopers arrested him. They took him to the ground and handcuffed him, without performing a field sobriety test or Breathalyzer test. Later, the troopers testified that, based on their training and experience, the defendant appeared intoxicated.

The defendant was convicted of an OUI, as well as a marked lanes violation, after a bench trial. When the evidence closed, the defendant moved for a finding of not guilty. The motion was denied.

The defendant argued on appeal that there were no sobriety tests conducted, such as a Breathalyzer or a field sobriety test, and so the Commonwealth had insufficient evidence to conclude he was impaired because of alcohol consumption.

The appellate court explained when a defendant is charged for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that consuming alcohol reduced the defendant’s capacity to operate a motor vehicle safely. The government doesn’t need to prove the defendant drove unsafely or erratically, but it must show diminished capacity to operate the vehicle safely.

The appellate court found that the government had presented sufficient evidence of impairment. In Massachusetts, proof of drunkenness is not required. Moreover, the observations of the police can be taken into account as evidence of impairment.

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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