Articles Posted in Drunk Driving in the news

Expertise.com looked at 289 OUI (Operating Under the Influence) lawyers in Boston and hand selected Urbelis Law as one of the very best. The goal of expertise.com is to connect people with the best local experts. They analyzed and scored Boston DUI attorneys on 25 variables across 6 categories, including reputation, credibility and experience. Urbelis Law ranked in the top 20 out of nearly 300 Boston lawyers. Our firm takes tremendous pride in the work that we do and always provides zealous advocacy tailored to each individual client.

See the expertise.com article here: https://www.expertise.com/ma/boston/dui-attorney

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On December 7, 2013 police arrested 32-year-old Mauricio Velasquez of Springfield for motor vehicle homicide, operating under the influence, and other crimes after being involved in a head-on crash in Easthampton, MA that left 2 dead and 3 injured. The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office has identified the man and young girl killed in the head-on crash as 71-year-old Charles Hoffman of Easthampton and a 3-year-old girl that is believed to be Velasquez’s daughter.

Officials say Hoffman’s pickup was struck by an oncoming van that crossed the center line while being driven by Velasquez. A woman riding with Hoffman, a second passenger in Velasquez’s van, as well as Velasquez himself were all seriously injured. Velasquez is currently being detained on $50,000 bail and it is not yet clear if he has a lawyer.

Though it may seem that this is a strong case against Velasquez, there are many factors that must be examined. In order to fight this case, Velasquez’s best bet is to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney who will look into the validity of the evidence gathered against him. For example, the Commonwealth must not only prove that a life was lost because of the accident but also that Velasquez caused the accident. In this case, it is clear that two lives were lost because of the accident but it is not clear that Velasquez was the cause of it. There are many things that could have happened to cause Velasquez’s vehicle to hit Hoffman’s vehicle. A skilled criminal defense attorney would have to take time to gather evidence in a number of ways such as: accident reconstruction, crime scene investigation, and witness interviews in order to protect Velasquez’s rights to the fullest extent. All these factors play a huge part in whether or not Velasquez can be convicted of Motor Vehicle Homicide.

Recently, John Basler, a 25-year-old Massachusetts state trooper, was involved in a car accident that resulted in the death of two women from Carver, Massachusetts. Basler is set to face a judge and be arraigned today in Plymouth District Court on OUI charges as well as charges for improper storage of a firearm.

According to investigating police, Basler’s blood-alcohol level was over twice the legal limit to drive in Massachusetts on Sept. 22, 2013 when his vehicle was involved in a head-on collision in Plymouth during the early morning hours. The other vehicle was being driven by 64-year-old Susan Macchi, with her 23-year old daughter Juliet Macchi in the passenger seat. Both women died as a result of the fatal accident.

In general, law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard than the average person. Basler was trained and educated on the serious dangers involved in drunk driving and still chose to do so. As a result of these charges, Basler was put on unpaid suspension pending the outcome of this case and it is likely he will face much more severe consequences if he is convicted of OUI-manslaughter.

Last Wednesday, a 25-year-old Everett woman named Vivencia Bellegarde was charged with OUI causing serious injury when she crashed into a Boston Globe delivery truck and ran it off of Interstate 93 and onto the Leverett Connector. The driver of the delivery truck was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital where he was said to be in fair condition.

According to police, the woman was also found to be in possession of three EBT cards, only one of which belonged to her. When asked why she had two other people’s EBT cards, the woman accused the police officer of being a racist, mocked him for having to pay for his food while she got hers for free, and threatened him with a Haitian voodoo curse. She also stated that she “didn’t care about the guy she hit because he isn’t dead and that all she cares about is smoking a cigarette.”

A spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), which oversees welfare, said in a statement that the agency “will take appropriate action” in regards to Bellegarde’s possible fraudulent EBT card usage. The statement also explained that “DTA investigates every 
tip that it receives from members of the public or law enforcement, and refers cases to the auditor’s Bureau of Special Investigations for further action, which has the power to investigate potential criminal matters.”

A Massachusetts man was arraigned in court on drug and OUI charges after he was arrested early Thursday morning. Fortunately, the man was released on personal recognizance after being charged with a marked lanes violation, operating under the influence of alcohol, possession of cocaine, possession of MDMA (Ecstasy) and possession of amphetamine salts (Adderall) with intent to distribute. According to police, he also failed three sobriety tests and had $1,792 in cash at the time of his arrest.

In Massachusetts, the maximum penalty for being found guilty of a 1st offense OUI is 2.5 years in jail, up to $5000 in fines, and license suspension for up to one year. According to MGL Chapter 94C 32(A), the maximum penalty for drug possession with the intent to distribute is imprisonment in the state prison for not more than ten years, or in a jail or house of correction for not more than 2.5 years, $10,000 fine, or both. Based on the information released, it is not clear as to whether this was the man’s first offense or if he has any other drug or alcohol related charges on his record. These factors have the potential to play an important part in determining what penalty the man will end up facing.

In this situation however, a few facts imply that there could have been some questionable police behavior involved. The information released informs us that the police officer found the drugs but waited until after the man had failed not one, but three field sobriety tests to inform him he was being charged with a drug crime. In my opinion, it seems as if the police officer had every intention of arresting the man and purposely withheld the fact that he had found the drugs in order to obtain more incriminating evidence against the man.

On Friday, during the driving ban in which only authorized state officials and snow plow vehicles were allowed to drive, John Douglas Wright was arrested for Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol, Driving with an Open Container, and Driving to Endanger. The arrest came after he was reported to have almost struck another car, admitting to being drunk and an alcoholic, and telling the police that he needed help with his addiction. His level of intoxication was confirmed at the police station where he blew a 0.26 on the breathalyzer, more than three times the legal limit of 0.08.

Mr. Wright pleaded guilty to this offense at his arraignment on Monday. While I can appreciate the fact that Mr. Wright wanted to take responsibility for his actions, I am led to believe that he did not have the advice of counsel before pleading guilty. Most attorneys would advise a defendant not to plead guilty on the first court date. If he was looking to admit to the offense, take responsibility, get the help he needed and move on with his life, right away, I would have done my best to work out a deal which continued the case without a finding of guilt for the one year probationary period. This way, he could avoid a conviction on his record, which with the “guilty” finding is now precluded from being sealed or withheld from potential employers, licensing agencies, etc. for at least five years. This may be a very significant obstacle if Mr. Wright is hoping to better his own life after he gets the help he needs. Additionally, a better deal might have included having the other charges dismissed or Nolle Prosequi’ed, which would minimize the damage to his criminal record and also the hit that he will be taking to his automobile insurance, and possible future license loss consequences, at the end of his 45-day license suspension.

If you have been charged with any criminal offense in Massachusetts, contact my office for your free initial consultation.

A few days ago, 57 year old Michael Sheehan was arrested for operating under the influence of alcohol and trespassing after he drove past two large signs that read “Do Not Enter” and “Police Personnel Only” on the wrong lane of a driveway, straight into a police parking lot. He failed all field sobriety tests and was WALKED right into the station.

While this may seem like an open and shut case, it isn’t necessarily that simple. In order to be found guilty of operating under the influence of alcohol in Massachusetts, the prosecution must prove 3 elements beyond all reasonable doubt: 1) The person operated a motor vehicle; 2) while under the influence of alcohol or drugs; 3) on a public way.

Based on this report alone, while Mr. Sheehan may very well have been operating under the influence of alcohol, there is no evidence that anyone saw him do so while on a public way. For purposes of this offense, a public way is defined as any public road or highway, or any place to which the public has a right of access, or any place to which members of the public have access as invitees or licensees. The fact that Sheehan was also charged with trespassing is strong evidence that this area was not a public way, as it permits access to “police personnel only.” In order to establish that Mr. Sheehan did, in fact, operate his motor vehicle on a public way at some point while under the influence of alcohol, the prosecution may offer evidence in the form of witnesses or surveillance video of Sheehan entering the parking lot from a public way. If Mr. Sheehan was simply found in the parking lot, and there is no timetable to establish when he arrived there, it would be very difficult to prove guilt. Reasonable doubt could be established by the fact that perhaps Mr. Sheehan had simply been lost and ended up in the parking lot. If he was idle in his car for, say, an hour, then it would be difficult to prove he was intoxicated at the time he was operating on a public way- because there is no way to determine when that might have been without any corroborating witnesses. In the absence of a clear time frame as to when he arrived at the station, I would likely advise Mr. Sheehan to fight the charge of Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol.

On Wednesday, December 5, Kevin Smith was arrested for Operating Under the Influence and Domestic Assault and Battery. Then, on Saturday, December 8, just three days later, he was arrested for Operating Under the Influence; again.

It is likely that Mr. Smith was arraigned in court on Thursday, December 6, for the first set of charges. At a criminal arraignment, the defendant is formally advised of the charges against him. If after being arraigned the court releases him on his personal recognizance (meaning, no monetary bail is set and the defendant is free to go on his way), or if bail is set and the defendant posts that bail and is released, he is advised of the conditions of his release. In a domestic violence case, the defendant is almost always advised that his release is conditioned on a “no-abuse” order of the alleged victim. In an operating under the influence case, the defendant is usually advised that he may not drive until his right to do so has been reinstated by the RMV. And at every criminal arraignment, the defendant is advised that if he is charged with any new criminal offense before the case at bar is resolved, his personal recognizance or bail on the first case may be revoked, and he can be held in jail for up to sixty days for violating the conditions of his release if the court determines that his release may cause a threat to the safety of another person or the community.

In this case, the Court likely determined that based on the fact that Mr. Smith was arrested for the same offense within a three day period, he blatantly disregarded the court’s order and put the community at risk of serious danger. Not only was he charged with a new crime, but his license was also almost certainly suspended as a result of the first Operating Under the Influence charge; if he failed the breath test, his license was suspended immediately for 30 days, whereas if he declined to take the breath test, his license would have been suspended for 180 days. Either way, in 19 out of 20 cases, the person is requested to take a breath test, so in all likelihood he was driving with a suspended license when he was arrested for the second time that week. Based on the blatant disregard of the court’s warning by not only driving his car without a license, but also doing so while under the influence of alcohol, AGAIN, I am not surprised at all that Mr. Smith was held without bail.

One year ago, the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team published several articles that completely misled the public about OUI conviction rates in Massachusetts. It tried to generate outrage by reporting certain conviction statistics without fully investigating how OUI cases are actually prosecuted in Massachusetts. In response to the article, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) of Massachusetts appointed R.J. Cinguegrana as special counsel to investigate OUI statistics in Massachusetts. Cinguegrana and his team evaluated data of nearly 57,000 OUI cases over a four year period. This much more comprehensive, thorough, and unbiased investigation and subsequent report, which was actually done by highly experienced legal professionals, reveals the truth about how OUI cases are prosecuted and adjudicated in Massachusetts.

Last year’s Globe article suggested that because jury-waived trials in front of a single justice result in acquittals 85-90% of the time, whereas jury trials result in acquittals nearly 30% less-often, the judges are too lenient on defendants. There is a very simple explanation for this disparity: the type of case in which criminal defense lawyers advise their clients to waive a jury are usually different from the type of case in which the defendant is advised to put his fate in the hands of his peers. In my experience, when the defense attorney’s theory of a case rests mainly on an issue of law rather than particular facts of the case, or where the evidence of one element of the offense is so weak that it’s readily recognizable to any lawyer or judge, the attorney will advise his client to waive a jury. Thus, the judges tend to hear weaker cases, resulting in a higher acquittal rate.

In Massachusetts, if you are charged with an OUI, you can rest assured that the prosecution will not be willing to dismiss your case, no matter how weak it may be. The main reason for this practice is that District Attorneys are elected officials, and they want to appear tough on drunk driving. They would rather take a very weak case to trial and lose than dismiss the charge, even when doing so is warranted. This way, they, along with the Boston Globe’s spotlight team, can blame the judges for a high acquittal rate, and still appear to be prosecuting these cases to the fullest extent of the law. With weak evidence of guilt, your attorney may file motions to exclude evidence without which the prosecution is UNABLE to legally go forward with the case. However, in most cases, you will have to go to trial with the hopes that a judge or jury finds you “Not Guilty.” This is a very different practice from other states, where OUI charges are often dismissed or amended to a less serious offense if the case is weak. In New Hampshire, for example, weaker OUI cases are routinely amended to the charge of “Reckless Driving” as part of a plea bargain. The absence of such a practice in Massachusetts forces you to hire an attorney to defend the case all the way through trial, even when the prosecutor knows that a “Not Guilty” verdict is almost certain.

Mark Leahy, president of the Massachusetts Police Chiefs association was quoted as saying, “We absolutely are not wrong 85 and 90 percent of the time. There are always going to be some lousy cases, but it doesn’t begin to approach a majority.” I 100% agree with Chief Leahy. The police are not wrong in making an arrest 85- 90% of the time. In fact, far from that. That’s why 77% of the time, the case is resolved of adversely for the defendant, with either an admission to the offense of OUI as part of a plea, or a Guilty finding after trial, according to Cinguegrana’s report. This number is actually consistent with the national average of 80.5%. Only 23% of OUI cases in Massachusetts result in either a dismissal or a Not Guilty verdict. And even of those 23% of cases with a favorable result for the defendant, the arrest was, in most cases, a good arrest. In order to arrest a person for OUI, the police only need probable cause to believe that the person committed the offense. In order to convict, the prosecution must prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the person is guilty of each element of the offense. Thus, a case in which the police made a legitimate arrest might still not be strong enough for the prosecution to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the person is guilty.
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How can someone get arrested two times in three hours? Jeffrey Graham of Merrimack, NH found a way to do just that.

At approximately 3:30 in the afternoon, witnesses reported that a motorist was driving in and out of traffic, struck a mailbox, and fled the scene. Police caught up to the motorist, Graham, and pulled him over. He was visibly intoxicated and arrested for Operating Under the Influence of Liquor. He was released on $2,000 bail.

At approximately 6:30, witnesses reported that a motorist later found to be Graham, once again, was back on the road, still intoxicated (or possibly re-intoxicated?), again struck a mailbox, but this time one-upping his earlier performance by driving into a fence. Police made contact with Graham as he was driving near his home, and arrested him for the second time that day. He was subsequently held on $5,000 bail.