Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Vacates OUI Conviction After Forced Blood Test

In a Massachusetts criminal case, such as a matter in which someone is accused of operating a vehicle under the influence, there are several potential defenses that may be asserted by the defendant. One of these is a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights during the collection of the evidence that the Commonwealth seeks to use to prove its case at trial.

One such example would be evidence that was illegally seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment forbids unreasonable searches and seizures and requires that probable cause be shown before a search warrant is issued.

The burden of proof in a criminal prosecution is on the Commonwealth, so excluding illegally obtained evidence at trial can be an important step to a defendant in his or her quest for justice. Without certain key evidence, it may be possible to have charges reduced or, in some instances, get a Cape Cod drunk driving case dismissed.

Facts of the Case

The defendant in a recent appellate case was a man who was arrested and convicted of several criminal offenses following an automobile accident. These charges included operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (OUI) in violation of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 90, § 24 (1) (a) (1), operating a motor vehicle negligently so as to endanger others in violation of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 90, § 24 (2) (a), operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and causing serious bodily injury in violation of Massachusetts General Law ch. 90, § 24L (2), and misleading an investigator in violation of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 268, § 13B.

After the defendant appealed his convictions, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts granted direct appellate review.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued that his conviction was invalid because the trial court had improperly admitted both his blood alcohol level and the statements upon which the charge of misleading an investigator had been based. The supreme judicial court agreed that certain evidence had been wrongfully admitted and, accordingly, vacated the defendant’s conviction and remanded the case for a retrial.

In so holding, the court noted that the defendant had not consented to a blood draw following the accident. Rather, police officers had procured a search warrant to obtain a blood sample from the defendant and state troopers had restrained his arms and legs while a nurse drew two vials of his blood. Under Massachusetts law, a statutory scheme exists to address the drawing and testing of blood alcohol content as it pertains to OUI; under this scheme, those who operate motor vehicles in the Commonwealth give “implied consent” to submit to a blood test if they are arrested for OUI. However, as the court pointed out, Massachusetts General Laws ch. 24(1)(f)(1) dictates that, if someone refuses to submit to a blood test, the test is not to be conducted and, as a result, the person can lose his or her driving privileges for up to 180 days.

Criminal Defense Attorney in Cape Cod

If you are facing criminal charges in Hyannis, Plymouth, or elsewhere in the Cape Cod area and need to speak to a seasoned OUI drunk driving attorney, please contact the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III at 888-262-6664. Remember: you have the right to remain silent, so do not speak to police without an attorney present. If you waive this important legal right, your own words can be used against you at trial.

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