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.