A Concord District Court jury today took about an hour to acquit Attorney Chris Spring’s client of operating under the influence of alcohol following her arrest in Lincoln several months ago.
A Lincoln police officer testified at trial that he witnessed the defendant driving her car on Route 2 when she swerved back and forth over the fog line several times. The officer activated his emergency lights and signaled the defendant’s car to pull to the side of the road. Instead, the defendant stopped in the middle of the road and the officer had to again request that she pull next to the curb and park her vehicle. When the officer approached the defendant’s car, she smelled like alcohol, had bloodshot eyes, and spoke with slurred speech. After initially denying she had consumed any alcohol, the defendant admitted that she drank one beer before being pulled over. The defendant agreed to perform a series of field sobriety tests so the officer could evaluate her sobriety.
The defendant was first asked to recite the alphabet, stopping at a certain letter. According to the officer, she missed some of the letters and failed to stop at the designated letter. The officer then asked the defendant to perform the nine-step walk and turn test, which requires the driver to walk in a straight line, while touching heel to toe, for nine steps and then return in the same manner. The officer testified that the defendant was unable to keep her balance or properly turn midway through the test. The officer then asked the defendant to touch the tip of her nose with her finger tips and to count backwards. According to the officer’s testimony, the defendant was unable to pass either test and was placed under arrest. At the scene, the defendant blew a .16 on the portable Breathalyzer.
Back at the station, the officer told the defendant she had the statutory right to be immediately examined by a doctor. However, when the defendant asserted her right to see a doctor, the officer ignored her. The defendant asked five times during the course of five minutes to see a doctor and the officer refused to honor her right to do so. This turned out to be a crucial mistake for the Commonwealth. Later during the booking process, the defendant appeared to the officer to be drunk, and at one point she fell down. However, because the officer violated the defendant’s right to see a doctor, Attorney Spring filed a motion to suppress all of the officer’s observations of the defendant during the booking process. A judge allowed the motion to suppress, and the most damaging evidence against the defendant (which was captured on the booking video) was not admitted at the trial. Attorney Spring argued the failed field sobriety tests could have been the result of the defendant wearing uncomfortable high heels and attempting to perform the tests near a busy highway with cars speeding by at high rates of speed. Bloodshot eyes can be caused by any number of factors and the defendant was not a native English speaker, which could have caused the officer to incorrectly conclude she was slurring her words.
Ultimately, the jury agreed that the Commonwealth had not proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and she was acquitted. If you have been charged with operating under the influence of alcohol, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.