As a Massachusetts OUI criminal defense attorney, my attention was caught by a story about a Peabody woman charged with second offense-drunk driving and two counts of child endangerment. According to The Salem News, bystanders saw the woman order her 11-year-old son out of her car and drive away, leaving him behind. She later returned to find police waiting for her, along with her son. According to a police report, bystanders saw Cheri Cordero, 40, tell her 11-year-old son to get out of her 2008 Cadillac Escalade near an intersection in Salem, and then drive away. He told the bystanders that his mother had been drinking, and that his 9-year-old brother was still in the car.
The bystanders called the police, and when they arrived, the boy told them that his mother had been drinking at a party on a friend's boat. As they left the party, her boyfriend called and they got into an argument over the phone. Agitated, she began yelling at her sons, the boy said, and that was when she told the older boy to get out of the car and drove away. Some time later, just before 9 p.m., Cordero returned to where she had dropped him off. Police officers arrived at about the same time and noted that Cordero's eyes were bloodshot and glassy and that she was slurring her words and smelled of alcohol. She said she had not been drinking, and that her kids were upset because they didn't want to leave the party. She failed two unspecified field sobriety tests. She refused a breathalyzer test at the police station, so police seized her driver's license and contacted the Department of Children and Families.
Leaving an 11-year-old child to fend for himself on a street corner is clearly not the best choice for a parent to make, even when that parent intends to come right back. But Cordero's behavior as a parent should not predetermine the outcome of her drunk driving charge. I hope that she will protect her own and her children's future by contacting an experienced Massachusetts intoxicated driving defense attorney to ensure that she is treated fairly as her case goes through the legal system.
It's important to note that since there is no breath test, the evidence against Cordero is all based on subjective observations made by police officers, such as field sobriety tests. Last week, I discussed the problems with field sobriety tests, and how easy it is to wrongly label someone as intoxicated based only on those tests. Cordero was most likely very upset at the time that she performed the field sobriety tests, so her performance on them could have been impaired by her emotional state even if she had not been drinking. It could also be that the police officers' judgments about her mothering affected how they saw the field sobriety tests, too. Cordero never took a Breathalyzer, so there is no objective evidence of her blood-alcohol content -- only observations of notoriously unreliable field sobriety tests and personal observations of her appearance and behavior.
Refusing a breathalyzer test comes with its own penalty: loss of driver's license for 180 days for a first OUI, or three years for a second-offense OUI. Those who lose their license for refusal of the test can appeal the suspension with the RMV within 15 days. If their drunk driving case is resolved in their favor, they are entitled to a court hearing to get their license back as well. But this hearing is not automatic, which is why Cordero or anyone else facing OUI charges involving field sobriety tests should contact a Massachusetts drunk driving criminal defense lawyer who can challenge unreliable field sobriety tests.