A Lowell District Court jury today found Attorney Chris Spring’s client not guilty of operating under the influence of alcohol on Route 3 in Billerica in May of 2016.
A state trooper was driving on the highway at a little past midnight when he saw an Audi being driven erratically by the defendant. The Audi swerved between the lanes several times without signaling and then began straddling the lane marker and driving between lanes. The trooper stopped the defendant’s car and approached him. When the defendant rolled down his window, the trooper immediately smelled an odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from the defendant’s mouth. The defendant admitted he had been drinking at a Lowell bar shortly before being pulled over. The trooper asked the defendant to get out of his car and perform a series of field sobriety tests.
The first test the defendant took was the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test. In this test, the trooper asked the defendant to move his eyes from one side to the other without moving his head. If a subject’s eyes twitch at various points, the trooper can reasonably conclude he is under the influence of central nervous system depressants. In this case, the defendant’s twitchy eyes did suggest he was under the influence of alcohol. However, in order for the results of the HGN to be admissible in court, the prosecution must call an expert witness to explain the scientific principles of the test to the jury. In this case (as in most district court cases), the Commonwealth did not have an expert witness and the results of the HGN were therefore not shared with the jury.
The second and third tests given to the defendant were common balancing tests. The nine step walk and turn test required the defendant to walk on a straight line for nine steps, while touching his heels to his toes on each step, turn around, and walk back nine steps on the same line. The trooper testified the defendant did not touch heel to toe on several steps and deemed the test a failure. The next test was the one-legged stand test, which required the defendant to stand still, raise one leg six inches off the ground, and count aloud to 30. The trooper testified the defendant was unable to keep his leg in the air for the full 30 count, and he skipped some numbers along the way. The trooper testified the defendant failed this test as well. The defendant consented to take a roadside Breathalyzer test and registered a .10 (higher than the .08 limit).
Attorney Spring filed a motion to exclude the roadside Breathalyzer reading, arguing that the machine is not proven to provide accurate results. The judge agreed and did not allow the prosecutor to offer evidence about the Breathalyzer reading. Attorney Spring argued the environment in which the defendant took the field sobriety tests (the side of a highway in the middle of the night, while the trooper’s spotlight shined in his eyes) made it impossible for a perfect performance. The jury deliberated for about an hour before finding Attorney Spring’s client not guilty of operating under the influence of alcohol.
Contact Attorney Chris Spring today if you have been arrested for operating under the influence of alcohol. It’s important for you to obtain advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney.