Recently in Breathalyzer Tests Category

June 30, 2014

Breathalyzer Test Results Should Have Been Suppressed Based On Excessive Differential

Last month, the Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed the Boston Municipal Court's denial of a defendant's motion to suppress evidence of his post-arrest breathalyzer test as evidence of his alleged operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. The decision examined the regulations applicable to breathalyzer test results and their reliability.

In Commonwealth v. Hourican, the defendant had driven his vehicle into a police patrol wagon. Police observed that the defendant had "glassy eyes" and smelled of alcohol. After failing two out of three field sobriety tests, the defendant was arrested. He then consented to a breathalyzer test in which he produced two breath samples. One sample measured 0.121% blood alcohol content (BAC), and the other measured 0.143%, resulting in a differential between the two samples of 0.022%. Both samples indicated that the defendant's BAC level was above the legal limit of 0.08%.

Continue reading "Breathalyzer Test Results Should Have Been Suppressed Based On Excessive Differential" »

December 19, 2012

Lower Court Verdict Reversed due to Error in Jury Instructions Regarding Defendant's Right to Refuse Breath Test - Boston Criminal Defense Attorneys Parker Scheer

A Massachusetts' appellate court has reversed a lower court's verdict where the judge erred in instructing the jurors on the defendant's right to refuse to take a breath test. Commonwealth v. Gibson.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Henry Gibson went to a Super Bowl party where he ate food and drank two light beers. At halftime he went to another party where he drank two more light beers and had more food. On the way home, Gibson stopped at a red light. Impatient, he proceeded through the red light, and was immediately stopped by the police. After the officer smelled alcohol, Gibson admitted to drinking four beers. The officer asked Gibson to step outside his car and perform several field sobriety tests.
When the officer felt Gibson failed each test, he was placed under arrest for driving under the influence (DUI).

At trial, the prosecution did not enter into evidence the results of a breathalyzer test. At the close of the trial, the judge instructed the jury that "The police do not have to offer [a breathalyzer test, and] a person does not have to take it ... You are not to mention or consider it in any way whatsoever, either for or against either side."

Gibson appealed his guilty verdict arguing that telling the jury that a person may refuse a breathalyzer test was a violation of his right against self incrimination.

In Massachusetts, it is settled law that a defendant's refusal to take a blood test or breath test to detect alcohol is not admissible as evidence because such a refusal is testimonial in nature and its admission violates the privilege against self incrimination. While the trial judge correctly instructed the jury that there were not to consider any absence of breathalyzer evidence, the judge erred when he also said that "a person does not have to take [a breathalyzer test]." Further, the fact that defense counsel did not object to the instruction is not relevant since the judge's instruction error created a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice.

Trial court decision reversed and verdict set aside.

If you or a family member has been charged with DUI or any other drunk driving related charge, please contact Parker | Scheer LLP for a free consultation with one of our experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers.

April 5, 2012

Brockton Man Registers a Breathalyzer Test Score of .384

A Brockton man was reportedly pulled over by the Rhode Island State Police in Providence, and suspected of drunk driving. Apparently, upon arrival at the police station, the suspect agreed to submit to a breathalyzer test.

Keeping in mind that the legal limit is .08, the suspect registered a staggering .384. Deni Carise, the senior vice president and chief clinical officer at PhoEnix House addiction recovery center reportedly advised that, using industry standards, a male about the same size and body weight of the suspect would have to consume 20 alcoholic beverages in the previous hour to reach the recorded breathalyzer test score of .384.

Analysis by Parker | Scheer LLP Attorney Vincent A. Tofani:

The frighteningly high score reported indicates one thing to me: a faulty breathalyzer machine. As a practicing criminal defense attorney, I have never represented an individual that registered such a high score after submitting to a breathalyzer test. In my experience, any individual with such a high blood alcohol level would not be able to function; instead, would likely be in a near death coma.

Inaccurate breathalyzer test scores as a result of both human and mechanical error are all too common in cases involving suspected drunk driving. This is one of the many reasons that we advise our clients to exercise their right to politely decline to submit to the breathalyzer test after they have been arrested. Instead, a more accurate mechanism for measuring one's blood alcohol level is to go directly to a hospital where a health care professional can draw a blood sample.

Both the Massachusetts General Laws and the Code of Massachusetts Regulations include guidelines addressing the proper maintenance of the machines, and method of conducting the particular test in an attempt to mitigate the likelihood of inaccurate scores being recorded. Notwithstanding, these machines often malfunction, and the results can be devastating for an individual suspected of operating under the influence of alcohol because the state courts of the Commonwealth treat the breathalyzer test score as prima face evidence of impairment, which is one of the elements of the offense that the prosecutor is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. In other words, the element of impairment is satisfied, as a matter of law, when an individual registers a breathalyzer test score of .08 or higher.

Continue reading "Brockton Man Registers a Breathalyzer Test Score of .384" »

April 3, 2012

Allegations of Operating Under the Influence

Patricia Anderson, Norwell Town Clerk, was arrested on March 16, 2012, by Hingham Police, and charged with operating under the influence of alcohol. The Patriot Ledger reported allegations made by police that Anderson was found standing in a pool of gasoline, next to her sport utility vehicle, which was stuck on a traffic island. It appeared that she had been travelling south on Whiting Street (Rt 53) Hingham, when she struck the island at the Gardner Street intersection, knocking over the "keep right" sign and blowing out two tires.

Ms. Anderson, 61, of Norwell, appeared confused, and had trouble answering questions according to the Hingham police officer, who noted that he could detect a strong odor of alcohol on Ms. Anderson.

According to the Ledger, the police allege that Anderson admitted to having consumed three glasses of wine earlier in the evening. She was arrested after a series of sobriety tests, charged with drunken driving and failure to stay within a marked lane. She was to be arraigned in Hingham District Court on Monday, March 19, 2012.

Read the entire Patriot Ledger article here.


Analysis by Parker | Scheer LLP Attorney Francis T. O'Brien, Jr.:

This story, as reported in the Ledger, is an example of how certain allegations by police may be presented in a manner which causes the casual reader and inexperienced trial observer to conclude that the operator was guilty of operating under the influence. However, after more than 25 years of practicing criminal defense law, including handling thousands of OUI/DWI cases, many in the Hingham District Court, I have learned that most often the complete story and true facts do not appear in police reports or newspapers. This is not to insinuate that police officers or journalists are intentionally untruthful, (although some undoubtedly are). It is more a product of the fact that police reports are written after a defendant has already been arrested, so police officers will naturally record those observations which they believe support their decision to arrest. Police reports are not written in a manner reflective of what a judge or jury might write if they were analyzing all of the facts surrounding an arrest and applying a neutral and detached eye to the rendering of a verdict.

The fact of the matter is that police officers are "interested" parties in cases where they have made an arrest. It is a natural human tendency to recollect facts favorable to support one's decision and police officers do just that. They present themselves in the most flattering way possible. This oft times slanted view can be further exacerbated when newspapers report on arrests. Most often, newspaper articles reporting on arrests receive their facts exclusively from the police, either directly or through court prosecutors reciting the words of the police. Therefore a newspaper article on an arrest is often times reporting a totally one sided account of the facts.

This case illustrates the importance of being represented by an experienced and knowledgeable drunk driving/OUI/DWI attorney, whether in Hingham District Court or any other District Court in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I see numerous issues which may be effectively developed for the defendant in this case:

Any time there is a motor vehicle accident, dazed, erratic, unsteady or confused behavior might be attributable to injuries suffered in the collision. Symptoms which police attempt to portray as signs of alcohol impairment may be equally consistent with injury. Additionally, a question arises how a police officer encountering a defendant standing in a pool of gasoline, which obviously emits overpowering noxious fumes, might detect the odor of alcohol from the defendant?

The fact that a defendant may have consumed alcohol earlier in the evening is by no means an indication that the defendant was legally impaired. It is not a crime to drink and drive. It is only a crime if the amount of alcohol consumption has diminished the person's ability to operate safely. Three glasses of wine does not necessarily constitute legal impairment and the passage of time only serves to diminish the effect of the alcohol.

Other than alleging that the defendant was arrested after submitting to field sobriety tests, there are no details in this article concerning the tests. Field sobriety tests are entirely subjective. Often times at trial, when all of the relevant facts are brought out by a skilled and knowledgeable drunk driving attorney, juries do not agree with the opinions expressed by police officers concerning the reasonableness of the defendant's field sobriety performance.

With regard to the accident, there are many reasons why people are involved in accidents, other than alcohol impairment. It will be interesting to watch this case proceed in the Hingham District Court.

Continue reading "Allegations of Operating Under the Influence " »

March 30, 2012

Obama's Uncle Temporarily Loses License After OUI Case

According to a report by WBZ 1030's Lana Jones, the half brother of President Obama's late father, will lose his license for 45 days, as of today after a hearing in Framingham District Court.

Oyango Obama was arrested August 2011, in Framingham, MA after a police officer claimed Obama had made a rolling stop at a stop sign. The officer alleges that this caused him to almost crashing into Obama's SUV. His blood alcohol registered 0.14, the Massachusetts state limit is 0.08.

Obama's attorney told the judge that there are sufficient facts in the case against his client. He agreed to a continuance without a finding, avoiding a plea of guilty to drunk driving and the charge will be dismissed, if he stays out of trouble for one year. He will lose his license for 45 days and pay fines and fees of $1,000.

"By admitting to sufficient facts today to operating under the influence and failure to yield at an intersection, the defendant has admitted responsibility for the essence of the crime he committed and has now been held accountable for his actions," District Attorney Gerry Leone said in a statement.

Immigration investigators became aware of Obama after the August arrest and claim he violated a 1992 order to return to Kenya. This case is still before the immigration court.

Analysis by Parker | Scheer LLP Attorney Francis T. O'Brien, Jr.:

The fact that this case involves a relative of the president is irrelevant. The defendant in this case received no "special" consideration from the court. What this case illustrates is the fact that defendants in drunk driving/OUI/DWI cases do not always wish to proceed to trial. Sometimes clients are interested in having their cases resolved quickly. Reasons vary from financial (legal fees are significantly less in cases where defendants advise us that they wish to resolve the case via some form of plea bargain, rather than proceeding to trial), to emotional (some clients simply do not like going to court and want the process to end as quickly as possible), to practical (some clients need to obtain a hardship license for work purposes as soon as possible, and hardship licenses may not be obtained during the period of time waiting for trial), to self recognition (some clients simply believe that they are guilty of the offense and want to "cut their losses"), to criminal record preservation (some clients want us to attempt to preserve their lack of a criminal record by obtaining for them a "continuance without a finding" such as the defendant Obama obtained in this case).

This case also illustrates the frequently occurring situation where a non United States citizen is a defendant in a criminal case. It is imperative that a non citizen be represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney IN CONJUNCTION WITH an experienced immigration attorney. In my opinion, although some attorneys dabble in both criminal and immigration courts, it is extremely rare that an attorney can accurately be described as an expert in both criminal and immigration law. At Parker | Scheer, we never resolve a case involving a non citizen without consulting with an immigration expert. We are affiliated with immigration experts and we are also willing to work in conjunction with our clients' own immigration attorneys.

We advise every client on the various options that are available to them. We give them candid opinions on the likelihood of achieving the result that the client wants. Ultimately, however, we respect the choice of each individual client and attempt to obtain the desired result for each client. There is no blueprint to be applied in every case. Each client and each case is different and must be treated on an individual basis.


Continue reading "Obama's Uncle Temporarily Loses License After OUI Case" »

February 2, 2012

"Should I Take a Breathalyzer Test?"

By Attorney Francis T. O'Brien, Jr.

The question that I am most often asked regarding OUI/DWI/Drunk Driving cases is: Should I take a breathalyzer test (BT), if I am arrested? It may be that if you are reading this article you have already been arrested and confronted with that quandary, made that decision and are now the defendant in a case, with or without BT evidence. In that case my comments might seem moot. However, it is important to remember that a skilled attorney who specializes in OUI/DWI/Drunk Driving cases can effectively represent you regardless of whether you took the BT or not. Do not waste energy dwelling on what you might have or should have done. As your attorney I will encourage you to focus on what the facts are, regardless of whether they seem good or bad to you, and move forward with an aggressive defense. I do have an opinion on the issue, however.

I believe that a person who is under arrest for operating under the influence of alcohol in Massachusetts should not submit to a breathalyzer test. There are a number of reasons for this opinion. First and foremost is the fact that a BT result is a concrete piece of evidence that will be offered against you at trial. If you register a score of .08 or above, that score alone is enough to convict you. This places your attorney in a position of having to challenge the accuracy of the BT score in order to effectively defend you. This will often result in increased costs to you as your attorney may need to utilize expert witnesses and/or pretrial motions and hearings to challenge the BT. In a sense, you have created a critical piece of evidence against yourself, which could have been avoided simply by declining to submit to the test. While there are many strategies that a skilled and experienced attorney can use to challenge the BT, you can spare yourself significant time, expense and stress by refusing.

Going hand in hand with instinctively not wanting to create physical evidence against oneself is the reality that there are many factors which can contribute to an inaccurate BT score. It is less than comforting to know that your fate lies in the hands of an inanimate object, a breathalyzer machine, and in the hands of the police officer operating the machine. However, by law, the test results are admissible, flawed as they may be. Therefore, it is my opinion that a person who believes that his or her blood alcohol level is below the legal limit should decline the BT test and immediately upon release from police custody go to the closest medical facility and have blood drawn and tested by trained medical personnel. This is a much fairer and more accurate test, not prone to mechanical and human error like the breathalyzer is.

A person under arrest will be advised that if they refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test they will lose their driver's license for a minimum of 180 days, but if they take the test and fail, they will only lose their license for 30 days. This sounds tempting and police will often apply subtle or not so subtle pressure to take the BT, saying things such as "in the worst case if you take the test and fail, you lose your license for 30 days and you can get a hardship license, but if you refuse you lose it for six months, with no possibility for a hardship license. What's the harm?" Unfortunately, there is significant harm in taking a BT. If the person registers a score of .08 or above, he or she has now placed him or herself in a position where, as discussed above, the defense attorney must devise a strategy in order to challenge this self created evidence. If the person refuses the BT, the defense attorney can focus the defense efforts on challenging the testimony of the police officers.

Police testimony is typically opinion evidence. In other words, the police officer will testify as to his observations of the defendant's driving, demeanor, performance on field sobriety tests, etc., and conclude that based upon these observations, the officer is of the opinion that the defendant's ability to operate was impaired by alcohol. However, opinion evidence may be aggressively challenged by an experienced OUI/DWI/Drunk Driving attorney. Very often defendants do not agree with the version of events offered by the police and a skilled attorney can expose flaws in the testimony of the police. If a defendant does not submit to a breathalyzer test then his or her defense can focus on challenging testimonial evidence.

What very few defendants realize, because the police will never advise them, is that in most cases involving a BT refusal, where the defendant is subsequently found not guilty at trial, the license suspension triggered by the refusal will be vacated and the person's right to operate will be immediately reinstated. So while the police may make it sound tempting to take a BT, with a 30 day suspension for a failed score, versus a 180 day suspension for refusal, the defendant is better served by refusing the BT.

Percentage wise, although a skilled attorney can handle any fact pattern, there are far more defendants who are found not guilty in cases where there is no BT evidence. And most often those defendants will have the remainder of their refusal suspension wiped out. Therefore, in my opinion, a person who is placed under arrest for operating under the influence of alcohol should refuse to submit to a breathalyzer.

Continue reading ""Should I Take a Breathalyzer Test?"" »

January 24, 2011

Mandatory Florida DUI Checkpoints

Historically, United States law has protected drivers from mandatory breathalyzer tests. If a driver is stopped for a traffic violation, she can refuse a test to discover if she has been driving under the influence. As it is her right; unfortunately, it can also be an advantage to a driver who has actually been drinking, because she might have time to "sober up" before a charge can be made.

The move for Florida to issue mandatory blood tests, if a driver refuses a breath test, is supported by groups like Mothers Against Drunk Diving. One representative, Linda Unfried, said "we don't want to violate people's civil rights. That's the last thing we want to do, but we're here to save lives." Unfried and supporters of mandatory tests, called "no refusal checkpoints," think people will be less likely to drink and drive if they know check points are stationed in the area.

Those who disagree with mandatory check points, like DUI defense attorney Kevin Hayslett, think it's an extreme measure; "what other misdemeanor offense do we have in the United States where the government can forcefully put a needle into your arm?"

It's unclear if the "no refusal" blood-alcohol tests and "heavily advertised" checkpoints will actually deter drunk drivers, or simply send them to areas that don't have them. It's also unclear if our current right to refuse a breath-alcohol test, with a Breathalyzer, in turn warrants the state's right to order a mandatory blood test.

Read the full article: "No refusal" DUI checkpoints could be coming to Tampa

December 10, 2010

DUI Drivers Formally Charged with Motor Vehicle Homicide in the Death of Brockton State Trooper

Last week, a Grand Jury indicted Kenneth Weiand (43 of Walpole) and Anthony Perry Jr. (46 of Hyde Park) in the death of state police Sergeant Douglas A. Weddleton of Brockton. The accident occurred on June 18, around 1:15 a.m. Weddleton, a married father of four, was working a construction site detail along Interstate 95 in Mansfield.

Sgt. Weddleton parked his police cruiser along the off-ramp, in order to alert drivers and protect the construction crew. The police reported that Weiand attempted to drive his Acura around the blockade. Weddleton tried to pull him over to speak with him. While speaking with Weiand next to his vehicle, Perry crashed his Ford pickup truck into the back of the Acura at a high speed. As a result, Weddleton was pinned under the Acura, as it careened across the highway due to the force of being hit from behind. He was pronounced dead after being rushed to Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro.

An alcohol breathalyzer test on scene showed Weiand's blood-alcohol level at .20, significantly above the legal limit of .08. Perry registered a level of .07 at the scene, and a .06 at the police station after the accident. While Perry was driving at under the legal limit, a .07 is still enough to impair driving. The investigation showed that both men had prior motor vehicle offenses, mostly for speeding. Neither men had a previous drunk driving charge.

Evidence was presented to a Bristol County Grand Jury and they found enough to indict the two men with motor vehicle homicide. According to a spokesman for Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter, it is not unusual to charge two different drivers with motor vehicle homicide in the same death. The indictments charge both men with "motor vehicle homicide while driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor and/or while driving negligently so as to endanger." The felony charge is the most serious motor vehicle homicide charge there is, and carries a maximum sentence, if convicted, of 15 years in prison. The two men will be arraigned later this month in Fall River Superior Court, and Assistant District Attorney Steve Gagne has been assigned to prosecute the case.

Weddleton's friends on the force said they were grateful for the D.A.'s office pursuing these charges, and praised the diligent work and investigation conducted by the state police.

Patriot Ledger Article on Motor Vehicle Homicide Charges