Tuesday, February 12, 2013

U Drink & Drive? U Lose!

This lad drove his car onto active RR tracks, got stuck, and was then arrested

I thought about using the title "Law & Order" because this important public document shines a light on the seamless follow up to Amherst Police Department's all too numerous arrests for the dangerous crime -- people still don't take seriously enough -- of drinking too much and then sitting behind the wheel of a car.

But I figured the text lingo would get the attention of my pre-gray-hair target audience -- not that DUIs in Amherst are solely the province of college aged youth, or people with hair for that matter.

And I thought about using "Don't drink and drive in Amherst" as a lead; but then I would have to quickly add, "Don't drink and drive anywhere!"  So I'll just go with this delayed lead:

In 2011 Amherst police arrested a whopping 144 drivers for DUI.  In 2012 even more, 155!  (And yes, I seldom use exclamation points!)

Let's hope in the current year it starts to go down.  And one good reason for that is District Attorney Dave Sullivan.  He takes drunk driving very seriously.  I present exhibit A:

This 87% conviction rate (for completed cases) is better than the overall state average of 77% found in a major study released in 2012 spanning 57,000 cases over 45 months.  But that study also uncovered a major problem: "When judges consider the merits of OUI cases in a bench trial, 86% were acquitted."  86%!

Jury trials were also problematic, as 58% were acquitted.

In this snapshot of Amherst DUI cases I can't help but question if the "2 not guilty" and "3 dismissed" would have turned out differently if the state changed the absurd rule making inadmissible as evidence in a trial the refusal to take a breathalyzer.


According to my legal advisor:  

 “Nolle pros” is shorthand for “nolle prosequi”, which is a filing by the Commonwealth (DA’s office or AG) indicating that the Commonwealth is not going forward with the case.  This is usually based on a decision by one or more prosecutors that there is not enough evidence in the case, or that the witnesses have disappeared. It does not rule out the future prosecution of the case, especially if filed prior to a trial date, but I must emphasize that is rare. It is a unilateral action by the Commonwealth which is not reviewable by the Court. The Court merely accepts the filing and tells the defendant he or she can go.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand why a failed field sobriety test is not considered evidence.

Larry Kelley said...

According to my legal adviser:

A failed field sobriety test IS evidence. The weight of that evidence is, of course, up to the jury hearing the case.

A refusal to take field sobriety tests, as well as the refusal to take a breathalyzer, is not evidence in Massachusetts, because one cannot be compelled to provide evidence against oneself under the Massachusetts constitution.

Massachusetts is one of only two states that does not allow a prosecutor to present a refusal to take a breathalyzer as evidence against the defendant.

Other states see the license to drive as an “implied consent” situation.

The implied consent is to various conditions, including the requirement that one submit to a breathalyzer or have the refusal count against one at trial.