Former NFL defensive lineman Bruce Smith was convicted of DUI and the charge of refusing to take a breathalyzer test by a Virginia Beach judge. As a result Smith was given a ninety day suspended sentence. He will also lose his license for twelve months. During the trial Smith claimed that he had difficulty taking and adequately performing the field sobriety tests due to a list of injuries he suffered during his NFL career. The judge believed that Smith’s level of intoxication prevented him from following the police officer’s instructions on how to take the field sobriety tests. The arresting officer testified that Smith was speeding and that when he pulled him over he smelled a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. Smith’s eyes were bloodshot and glassy.
There is an interesting twist to this case. The officer who arrested Smith was subsequently arrested and charged with DUI as well. The officer crashed his car and failed three out of four field sobriety tests that were administered. Evidence of the pending DUI charges was not admissible against the officer.
Here is a question. Why was the fact that the arresting officer had a pending DUI charge inadmissible at Smith’s trial? The prosecutor claimed that the crime of DUI does not affect a witness’ credibility. While that might be true in most cases it should not be in this DUI case. We know that the arresting officer failed three out of four of his field sobriety tests on his case. That officer has pleaded not guilty, thus maintaining his innocence. Suppose the officer believes that he adequately performed his field sobriety tests notwithstanding a subjective opinion to the contrary. If that is the case then it seems to me that a judge should have allowed questioning of the officer on this issue. This would enable Smith to show that when this officer behaved in the same manner the officer believed that he was not impaired. Consequently, Smith could argue that similar behavior manifested on his part does not amount to a credible opinion that he was impaired. In other words, the arresting officer’s opinion that he passed the field sobriety tests and Smith failed is a matter of credibility that Smith should have been able to make known to a jury.
The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman has been defending OUI cases in Massachusetts for over twenty years. We fight to get evidentiary rulings that help our clients to secure wins after trial. If you have been charged with this crime call us at 617-263-6800 or contact us online.