A man faces a charge of second-offense drunk driving after leading Weymouth, Massachusetts police on a chase that reached speeds of 110 miles per hour, the Boston Globe reported Sept. 28. Oscar Hernandez was reportedly spotted speeding by Weymouth police around 2:30 in the morning of Sept. 27. Officers followed his speeding black Mercedes down Route 18 until Hernandez suddenly stopped near Park Avenue and refused to get out of his car. Officers said they couldn't perform field sobriety tests -- "It was more of a wrestling match," said a police captain -- but charged him with a second drunk driving offense based on their observations that he smelled of alcohol and had glassy eyes. Hernandez works at the Boston office for U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security that handles non-criminal immigration matters, but is not a law enforcement officer.
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As a Massachusetts drunk driving defense attorney, I can't help but notice that this article doesn't mention police testing Hernandez's blood or breath. If officers did not do any such chemical test, their DUI case may rest solely on the observations of the officers at the scene. Law enforcement observations are important -- but law enforcement officers, like all human beings, can make mistakes. And a smell of alcohol and glassy eyes are not in themselves proof that a driver was intoxicated. In order to obtain a conviction for OUI liquor, prosecutors must show that the driver had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher, or was under the influence of intoxicating liquor. In a case like this, an experienced Massachusetts OUI defense lawyer may be able to show that the accused was not under the influence of liquor, even if he or she had been drinking -- allowing the driver to avoid a conviction.
A second DUI is a serious charge in Massachusetts. If convicted, Hernandez would face a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail, up to 2 1/2 years; fines and fees ranging from more than $600 to more than $10,000; loss of his driver's license for two years, including at least one year without eligibility for a hardship license; and negative consequences for his work, his family and his auto insurance rates. With this much to lose, it's very important for drivers facing a second drunk driving charge to contact a Massachusetts DUI defense attorney before making any decision on their pleas, to discuss all possible avenues of defense.