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Massachusetts OUI Case Reversed Due to Ambiguity As to Whether Consent for “Chemical Test” Included Having Blood Drawn

The defendant in a Massachusetts drunk driving case has certain constitutional rights. One of these rights in the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Generally speaking, this means that an officer of the law must either obtain the defendant’s consent or secure a search warrant in order to obtain certain types of evidence. However, there are some exceptions to this general rule, such situations involving exigent circumstances. With regard to the issue of consent, there can be substantial disagreement as to whether a particular individual’s “consent” was voluntary under the circumstances (only “voluntary” consent excuses an officer’s failure to obtain a warrant, unless an exception applies) and, if there truly was voluntary consent, the extent of that consent.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently considered by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the defendant was a man who was involved in a car crash that rendered him unconscious. He was extracted from his car and taken to the hospital via ambulance. An officer placed him under arrest for operating while under the influence of alcohol and administered his Miranda warnings to him. The defendant admitted that he had been drinking and gave consent for a “chemical test to determine [his] blood alcohol concentration.” After a blood test was administered, confirming that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol, he was prosecuted for drunk driving.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress the results of the blood tests. The trial court denied the motion, as well as his motion for reconsideration. The defendant then entered a conditional plea, wherein he admitted facts sufficient for a finding of guilty while appealing the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress.

The Ruling of the Court

The Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed the trial court’s order denying the defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence of intoxication obtained through the blood draw. According to the court, there was ambiguity with regard to what, exactly, the defendant was agreeing to when he signed the consent form for the “chemical test.” In the appellate court’s view, both the officer’s words and actions and the words and actions of the defendant were so ambiguous as to make it difficult to discern whether there was actual consent to the drawing of his blood, as opposed to some other type of test.

In so holding, the court acknowledged that the United States Supreme Court had “relatively recent[ly]” issued three decisions relating to the scope of the government’s authority to draw and test blood from a defendant in a drunk driving case and that, in light of these decisions, the lower court’s ruling had to be reversed.

Been Arrested for Drunk Driving in Cape Cod?

The laws concerning criminal offenses like operating under the influence can be subject to change over time. If you have been accused of drunk driving, you need to contact an attorney who stays abreast of the latest developments in this area of the law. To schedule a consultation with an experienced and knowledgeable Cape Cod OUI lawyer, please call The Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, at 888-262-6664.