A Lowell District Court jury today deliberated for only 10 minutes before finding Attorney Christopher Spring’s client not guilty of operating his car under the influence of alcohol.
The defendant was driving on Pawtucket Boulevard in Tyngsboro on a cold January night in 2018 when a police officer randomly ran his license plate. The officer discovered the defendant had a warrant for his arrest for failing to pay court fees on a prior criminal case. The officer followed the defendant and noticed his car was “swaying” from side to side. The defendant was stopped and when the cop approached his open driver’s side window, he immediately smelled a strong odor of alcohol. The cop asked the defendant to get out of the car, and the defendant stumbled and fell down when he exited. The cop then accompanied the defendant to the area between the defendant’s car and the police cruiser and administered a series of field sobriety tests. According to the cop, when the defendant was asked to walk 9 steps on a straight line, he instead walked 12 steps and repeatedly lost his balance. When the cop asked the defendant to raise his leg six inches off the ground and count to 30, the defendant was unable to balance in that position for more than three seconds. Finally, when the cop asked the defendant to say the alphabet, the defendant was unable to get past the letter G. The defendant was arrested and brought to the police station. After refusing to take the Breathalyzer test, the defendant was charged with operating under the influence of alcohol.
At trial, the arresting officer struggled during his cross-examination. He was unable to remember basic facts about the case, such as whether is was cold outside (it was the middle of January), whether it was dark at the time of the stop (it was 8:30 p.m.), and whether the defendant was wearing flip flops on his feet. The officer couldn’t remember if there was snow on the ground and gave inconsistent testimony regarding where his “take-down” lights were pointed (which was important, as the defendant claimed the lights were shining in his eyes when he was trying to perform the field sobriety tests). The officer acknowledged the area where the defendant was instructed to take the field sobriety tests was only 10-12 feet long and traffic continued to buzz by as the defendant was attempting to perform the tests. Attorney Spring argued to the jury that it would have been impossible for anyone to perform the field sobriety tests in such a difficult environment. Finally, Attorney Spring obtained a copy of the booking video, and the defendant did not appear to be intoxicated at the police station. He had no problem maintaining his balance and was able to clearly answer all of the booking officer’s questions (with no slurred speech). The defendant’s appearance on the booking video was inconsistent with the arresting officer’s description of the defendant’s appearance on the evening in question.
The jury very quickly determined the Commonwealth had not proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and found the defendant not guilty. If you are charged with operating under the influence of alcohol, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. These cases are often beatable, even when the police report suggests the defendant is clearly guilty.