If you are charged with an OUI (operating under the influence) in Massachusetts, it is important that you hire an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer. The crime of Operating Under the Influence is an extremely technical crime. What this means is that there are a lot of little things to look for when defending somebody for OUI. For instance, an attorney should be looking at whether the stop of the motor vehicle was proper, should the person have been asked to exit the motor vehicle, how did the person perform on the Field Sobriety Tests, were the Field Sobriety Tests performed properly by the police, did the police read the person their proper rights, did they observe the person properly during the breath test, did they administer the breath test properly, and many other questions.
In addition, the penalties for OUI are all prescribed by statute and are mandated by law. It can be very difficult to handle these issues without an experienced OUI lawyer. Attorney David Ellison has represented many clients on OUI including at Motions to Suppress Evidence and at Bench Trials and Jury Trials.
What are the elements of Operating Under the Influence?
The prosecution has to prove the following three things:
1) that the defendant operated a motor vehicle;
2) that the defendant did so on a public way; and
3) that the defendant was under the influence of intoxicating liquor.
Many times operation can be obvious, like when the police see you driving your car and decide to initiate a traffic stop for a traffic violation. However, sometimes it isn't obvious. What if you are just sitting in your car? In order to prove operation, the prosecution must show that the defendant intentionally manipulated some mechanical or electrical part of the vehicle — like the gear shift or the ignition — which, alone or in sequence, would set the vehicle in motion. Under the law, to “operate” a motor vehicle within the meaning of the law, it is not necessary that the engine be running.
An intoxicated defendant found asleep behind the wheel of a vehicle parked on a public way, with the key in the ignition and the engine on, may be found to have “operated” the vehicle; the Commonwealth need not prove that the vehicle was driven before being parked nor prove the defendant's intention after occupying the driver's seat. Commonwealth v. Sudderth, 37 Mass. App. Ct. 317, 319-320, 640 N.E.2d 481, 482-483 (1994).
- Public Way
Although it may not always be an issue in a trial, it can come up. Usually people operating a motor vehicle are on a public way, but in some circumstances they may not be. Any street or highway that is open to the public and is controlled and maintained by some level of government is a “public way.” Interstate and state highways along with municipal streets and roads are considered a “public way.” Massachusetts General Laws c. 90, § 1 defines a public way as the following: “any public highway, [or a] private way [that is] laid out under authority of [a] statute, [or a] way dedicated to public use, or [a] way [that is] under [the] control of park commissioners or [a] body having [similar] powers.”
- Under the Influence of Alcohol
Usually, the most popular thing that is challenged in an Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol trial is "impairment." It is not illegal to drink and drive. It is illegal to drive and be under the influence of alcohol. What does it mean to be under the influence of alcohol? A person is under the influence of alcohol if they have consumed enough alcohol to reduce their ability to operate a motor vehicle safely, by decreasing their alertness, judgment and ability to respond promptly. It means that a person has consumed enough alcohol to reduce their mental clarity, self-control and reflexes, and thereby left them with a reduced ability to drive safely.
The prosecution is not required to prove that the defendant actually operated in an erratic manner, but the prosecution is required to prove that a person's ability to drive safely was diminished by alcohol. A person does not have to be drunk to be considered under the influence of alcohol. The prosecution is required to prove that the defendant's ability to drive safely was diminished by alcohol.
If you have been charged with Operating Under the Influence, do not hesitate to contact Massachusetts OUI Attorney David Ellison today at 401-230-5520.