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Defenses to DUI (OUI) in Massachusetts

There are many avenues available to challenge an OUI charge.  Just to review everything discussed so far:

  • Should you refuse to consent to a chemical test, you can request a hearing with the Registrar to attempt and get your license suspension lifted.  If you took and failed the chemical test, and by that I mean it showed a BAC above the legal limit, your first challenge will come when you file a motion to dismiss the charges or suppress key evidence for reasons previously discussed. 
  • Remember, the prosecutor must meet each of the elements of OUI, and any mistakes by the agents of the state during the process create a possibility of suppressability of key evidence.  Suppress the key evidence and it can mean the state cannot prove the elements of the charge, which means the case must be dismissed.
  • Also, when you meet with the prosecutor for the pretrial conference, if the case of the state is very solid, this is your opportunity to see if you can plead guilty to a lesser charge in return for the state dropping the OUI charges against you.  For example, per Mass. code, reckless driving, street racing, leaving the scene of an accident, and causing an accident intentionally are all chargeable offenses, but the punishment applied to these offenses is much less severe than the penalty for OUI.  It is important to have reasonable expectations if you have been accused of OUI, and this is something your lawyer will discuss with you.  Sometimes prosecutors are willing to allow those charged to plead to lesser offenses or if you are charged with multiple offenses, a prosecutor may offer to drop one charge if you plead to another.  This saves the state the time and money a trial would cost.  As an example, reckless driving, which carries of punishment of fine ($20 – $250) and/or imprisonment of 2 weeks – 2 years is definitely what you want to plead guilty to if you have to be found guilty of that or OUI.  If the state’s case is strong and prosecutor may not allow you to plead to a lesser charge, they will often allow you to plead to the charge for a reduction in the fine, prison time or both.

Regarding challenging the arrest, the chemical tests, etc . . ., it would be best to speak with a licensed attorney.  They have been trained to quickly recognize weakness and strengths of your case.  Basically, there are two ways to attack evidence.  Either the evidence itself is faulty, in which case you would ask the judge to exclude or suppress it, or the evidence is ok, but the logical inference to be drawn by those considering it is faulty.

  • All evidence is vulnerable to attack.  For example, if the officer’s video shows you stumbling while trying to perform a field sobriety test, but you have weak knees, you can argue the physical limitation and not a foreign substance was the source of your lack of balance.  This is the type of argument you would make to not challenge the evidence itself but to rebut the presumption of someone hearing the evidence.  Another way to attack the evidence is to say the officer did not explain what exactly he wanted you to do.  If the instructions were not clear, then the test is faulty and it is not fair to use such a test as evidence against you.  Poor choice of environment has also been used to attack field sobriety tests.  If you are asked to walk a straight line on the side of a ditch, you may find this difficult since the ground is uneven and there is not roadside line to use as a point of reference.  Sometimes videos have been suppressed simply due to poor picture quality.  If it is difficult to see what the officer and suspect are doing then the video should not be entered into evidence.
  • The officer’s conduct can also be attacked.  You can claim he did not have the reasonable suspicion necessary to stop you.  You can argue your performance of the field sobriety tests did not provide the officer the reasonable suspicion he needed to arrest and charge you.  You can argue you were not Marandized properly when arrested.
  • Finally, you can argue the chemical tests were not properly administered due to a fault with the machine.

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