Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

DRIVING “BUZZED” IN MASSACHUSETTS IS ENOUGH TO GET YOU CHARGED AND CONVICTED FOR OPERATING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

Drunk drivers beware! Those who feel they can “get by” driving after drinking alcohol should take a tip from some of the new advertisements put out by the Commonwealth.

As the holiday season fades into our rearview mirrors, we return to streets of ice, roads of varying  repair and some questionable drivers.  Most of the parties are over. This by no means means that no one is partying anymore.

And driving.

Recently, new advertisements from the Commonwealth have taken and interesting tact. Law enforcement realized that people know that to drive “drunk “ is a huge risk.  However, it seems to be human nature for someone who is perhaps “slightly intoxicated“ to misunderstand.  Such a person might assume that, because they are neither stumbling around incoherently or vomiting out the nights imbibement, that they are safe to drive.

Think about it. How many times have you heard people say something like, “I’m not drunk. I’m just a little buzzed.”

How many times have you heard yourself say it?

The new ads to which I refer tackle the misconception that driving while “just a little buzzed, is “ok”

It’s not ok.

    Attorney Sam’s Take On ”Buzzed Driving” And Other Distorted Thinking

Between my days as a prosecutor and my over over 20 years as a defense attorney, I have handled a great number of drunk driving cases. As common as this crime is, there are still misconceptions about it. This new ad campaign takes one of those misconceptions on.

Some folks think that they have to be falling down drunk in order to be intoxicated under the meaning of the OUI laws. They would be wrong. It really does not take all that much to hit the magic number to show intoxication on a breathalyzer. In fact, the breathalyzer itself is often misunderstood.

While a breathalyzer is certainly strong evidence as to whether there is a certain blood alcohol level, the potential evidence on whether one is under influence does not end there. The Commonwealth also uses eye witness testimony about how a soon-to-be-defendant acts. Sometimes there are regular non-police-type witnesses who can testify as to how the person drove. There is usually the testimony of at least one police officer who will talk of slurred speech, odor of alcohol, unsteady gait, bloodshot eyes and failed field sobriety tests.

You might want to ask yourself how much alcohol can give you the odor of alcohol. I will give you a legal secret…not much at all.

In fact, there has been a recent issue with some of the breath-testing equipment leading at least one county to disregard such evidence for the time being.

Guess what? The prosecutions continue. This is because of other evidence such as the eye-witness testimony I mentioned.

This leads me to another source of Commonwealth evidence.  Namely, statements made by the defendant.  There are also several cases which are won or lost (depending on which side you are on) because of such statements.

Again, one does not need to be “drunk” to be intoxicated enough to be foolhardy. Often, drivers insist of speaking about how they only had “2” drinks or some other rationale for the officer to simply say, “Oh, I did not realize that. Sorry to have delayed you. Go home now.”

I have not seen a case, in my over thirty years of handling such cases when that has happened. This is an example of why we attorneys tell our clients to make no statements to the police officer.

“But, Sam, didn’t you tell us that police officers are allowed to lie during an investigation?”

I did.

“So, the officer is going to lie anyway, right? So why not at least give it a shot?”

Well, let me point that, while it does happen, police officers do not always lie. In fact, often they tell the truth from their perspective…even if that perspective does not agree with the driver’s.

There are many ways to prosecute and to defend drunk driving cases. Like any type of criminal matter, the first thing for someone charged to do is retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. You want a lawyer who knows the intricacies in this type of case and how to maneuver with them.

The bottom line of today’s posting, however, is to take the lead of the Commonwealth’s new ad campaign. Being “buzzed” is enough to get you arrested….and potentially convicted.

If this warning has reached you or yours alittle too late, then take another piece of advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney who has handled lord-knows-how-many of these cases (me. Sam Goldberg)…retain the services of experienced counsel in whom you have faith…fast.

 

 

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