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Elements of a DUI (OUI) in Massachusetts

This is what the state must prove to convict you:

The car was operated.  The code of Mass. defines operation as intentional manipulation of some mechanical or electrical part of the vehicle, which alone or sequentially would set the vehicle in motion.  The courts have held this element met when a driver used a remote starter to crank his engine but had yet to insert a key in the ignition, so actual driving (moving) is not necessary.  The court held the element met because, although a key was needed to operate the vehicle, its not being in the ignition was a temporary impediment to actual operation.  Although permanent impediments to driving will void a finding of operation, temporary impediments will not.  Operation has also been held satisfied by the Mass. Court of Appeals if the driver is behind the wheel and the tires are rotating.  In that case, it did not matter to the court that the car was not moving.  In fact, the driver was attempting to back up, but she was not actually moving the car.  Also, this element may be proven by circumstantial evidence, so the officer need not have seen you operate the car.  Circumstantial evidence means an officer can look at the situation and use reasonable inference to determine what happened.  If for instance, your car is off the road in a ditch and you are the only one around, a reasonable inference would be that you were operating the vehicle when it went off the road and into the ditch.  So within the context of these examples, generally the element of operation will be satisfied if you have the immediate potential to drive the vehicle and are attempting to do so.

On a public way or area members of the public have a right of access to.  This means any space the general public may access as either invitees or licensees.  So for example, if you are visiting a friend and, for some reason, a police officer pulls up the driveway as you start your car and arrests you for DUI, that would not be a public way, and could be grounds for dismissal of the case.  Suppose however the officer waited for you to pull out of the driveway and pulled you over on the side of the road to which the driveway connected.  In this hypothetical, the public way element would be met.  A hybrid of the two examples is private ways but open to the general public.  Suppose for example you begin to operate your car in the parking lot of a bar.  This is a private parking lot but anyone is welcome to operate their cars there in hopes they will enter the bar as patrons, so here, the public way element is again met. 

The operator of the vehicle was under the influence of some intoxicant.  Operating Under the Influence (“OUI”) is usually established by aggregating the evidence available to the state.  Video from the officer’s car of your driving, any damaged caused by your driving, testimony from the officer or any witnesses as to your behavior, appearance, etc . . ., video and testimony as to how you performed any field sobriety tests, the results of any chemical tests like blood or breath tests to determine blood alcohol content or drugs in your system will all be provided at court by the state to attempt to establish you were OUI.


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