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February 10, 2014

Mere Use of License Plate Cover Not Grounds for Traffic Stop

Today, the Massachusetts Appeals Court issued its decision in Commonwealth v. Bernard, affirming the decision of a Lawrence District Court judge to suppress evidence obtained from the defendant's vehicle when a Massachusetts State Trooper pulled the defendant's vehicle over after observing a plastic cover on the vehicle's rear license plate. The decision resulted in the suppression of statements and evidence supporting firearm charges against the defendant.

In June 2009, the trooper observed the defendant operating a vehicle on Route 495 southbound. The trooper, who was traveling in the first lane, allegedly was unable to see the license plate of the defendant's vehicle, which he observed from an angle as the defendant's vehicle traveled in the third lane. The license plate was covered with a clear, but tinted, plastic cover. For this reason only, the trooper pulled up behind the defendant's vehicle and activated his cruiser lights to pull the defendant over. The trooper observed no other traffic violations.

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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.

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November 3, 2010

Danroy Henry's Teammates Seek Immediate Dismissal of Charges

Four college football players who were arrested after their 20-year-old teammate, Danroy Henry, was fatally shot by police are seeking to have their charges dismissed immediately.
Their defense attorney successfully opposed prosecutors' request to postpone their court appearance scheduled for Thursday. The defense lawyer told the Boston Globe that the charges were a cover-up for police brutality and that if they don't have enough evidence now then they didn't have enough to charge them in the first place. Prosecutors had asked for two weeks, saying that these cases were part of an ongoing investigation into Henry's death.

Police claim that Henry sped off into officers when one officer knocked on his car window, but witnesses contradict that account. The four Pace football teammates were arrested in the chaos that ensued after police shot Henry. Their defense counsel says that all four were victims of police brutality including being zapped with a stun gun and having a gun put up against them, all because they were trying to get medical aid to Henry.

Chaotic events often lead to false criminal charges. When police get caught up in the moment or don't know who to blame, they often arrest innocent persons.

The Boston Globe: Slain man's NY teammates: Drop charges against us

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