A recent news report about a Massachusetts arrest helps illustrate an important point about OUI law enforcement and prosecution.
People who are accused of drunk driving often take a fatalistic approach to the charges they face. Perhaps they feel the evidence against them is overwhelming, and so there is no point in trying. This is a mistake. Everyone deserves a defense.
Next month will mark the first anniversary of legalized recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, and the commonwealth is still adjusting to the changes the new law brought. One area where the authorities are still trying to figure out how to work with the new law is in its approach to marijuana-impaired driving.
When you are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, police officers have a variety of ways to gather evidence that you are too intoxicated to driver. They may have you go through a field sobriety test, asking you to walk a straight line and performing other simple tasks. If you fail, they will take notes and the prosecution will use those notes as evidence against you. The police will probably take note if they smell alcohol on your breath or appear to be slurring your speech, as well. But perhaps the most important evidence they will collect is the results of a blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, test.
People who have been accused of a crime have the right to a defense. This includes people who are charged with drunk driving offenses.
Massachusetts State Police troopers are given rigorous training, and they are expected to uphold the law, both when they are on duty and when they are not on duty. Nonetheless, occasionally, troopers run afoul of the law because they, like the rest of us, are human. A recent accident in Chicopee involving a state trooper who was alleged to have been operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol demonstrates how these finely trained officers can allegedly violate the laws they are sworn to uphold.
A breathalyzer or other test can play a major role in prosecuting a driver in Massachusetts for an operating under the influence charge. An OUI defense helps protect rights by assuring that this testing is accurate. Recently, however, Massachusetts will again use breathalyzer test evidence that was rejected in OUI cases.
When stopping a suspected drunk driver, police will look for evidence of impairment. A 3-part field sobriety test is a typical method and its execution needs to be addressed in an OUI defense.
Massachusetts officials have been reviewing options on enforcing impaired driving laws after marijuana was legalized in the state. A report from a Michigan state commission studying the effects of marijuana on drivers may be instructive for Massachusetts' enforcement and an OUI defense once these plans are finalized.