Massachusetts State Trooper Charged With Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol in Salem Superior Court Following Serious Car Accident

The Boston Globe reported that Massachusetts State Trooper Dale Jenkins was arraigned on several serious charges in Salem Superior Court today following his alleged involvement in a car accident in North Andover last May.

The Commonwealth has alleged that the 36-year-old trooper was driving his 1965 Corvette a little after midnight on May 3rd when he slammed into a utility pole.  His passenger was seriously injured and airlifted to Beth Israel for medical treatment.  The Essex Grand Jury indicted the defendant and charged him with operating under the influence of alcohol causing serious bodily injury, assault and battery causing serious bodily injury, and carrying a firearm while intoxicated.

According to the Commonwealth, the defendant had cuts on his arms and his head and was uncooperative with the responding police officers.  He refused to provide the police with his passenger’s name, and he admitted to a firefighter that he had been drinking.  The police also reported that the defendant was unsteady on his feet and smelled like alcohol.  The defendant refused to take the Breathalyzer test and declined medical treatment, which means his blood was not drawn.

According to the Globe, bail was set at $20,000.  The judge also ordered that while the case is pending, the defendant is not allowed to drink alcohol, he is not allowed to drive without a valid license, and he is not permitted to possess any firearms.  The defendant pleaded not guilty to all charges.  The State Police has suspended the defendant without pay while the case remains open.

Although it seems counterintuitive, individuals who are charged with operating under the influence of alcohol following a serious car accident often find themselves in a better position to defend themselves at trial.  In a case like this, the defendant will be able to argue that his slurred speech and uncooperative disposition were not the result of alcohol ingestion.  Instead, he was out of it and confused because he had just survived a violent collision with a telephone pole.  Some symptoms of a concussion or brain injury are similar to the symptoms of alcohol intoxication.  While the defendant allegedly smelled like alcohol, nobody will be able to determine how many drinks he had before the accident.  An individual will begin to smell like alcohol immediately following his first sip.  The Globe article does not mention whether the defendant submitted to standard field sobriety tests such as the walk-and-turn or one-legged-stand test.  However, in cases where there is an accident, responding police officers regularly do not administer field sobriety tests because their first concern is providing medical treatment to the defendant.  Therefore, the Commonwealth’s entire case against Trooper Jenkins consists of a car accident, slurred speech and an uncooperative disposition (which can be explained as side-effects of the accident), and the smell of alcohol (which does not prove how much the defendant had to drink).

By refusing the Breathalyzer and medical treatment, there will be no evidence at trial regarding the defendant’s blood alcohol content.  In Massachusetts, a prosecutor is not allowed to tell the jury when a defendant refused to take the Breathalyzer.  Therefore, while he suffered a significant license suspension (six months) for refusing to take the Breathalyzer, the defendant will be in a much better position at trial.  While the facts sound bad upon first review, there is an excellent chance that the defendant will beat this case in court.