Articles Posted in Dangerousness Hearings

Published on:

A recent drunk driving arrest caught my eye as a Massachusetts OUI criminal defense attorney because of the length of the driver’s previous record. As the Boston Globe reported Dec. 7, 52-year-old Vernon Perry of East Providence, RI, is facing his ninth charge of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Perry was arrested in Seekonk in the early hours of Dec. 4 after police spotted him speeding and driving erratically. He failed field sobriety tests but refused to take a breath test, triggering an automatic suspension of his driver’s license. After he appeared in court and pleaded not guilty Dec. 6, the judge ordered him held for a dangerousness hearing, which means he can be held for up to 90 days. If convicted, he faces 2.5 to 5 years in prison, plus lifetime revocation of his driver’s license.

Despite his long record of driving drunk, Perry had a valid driver’s license when he was pulled over by Seekonk police. His eight previous OUI convictions date from 1983 to 2001. That means all of the convictions took place before Melanie’s Law, which tightened penalties for drunk driving, passed in 2005. Before Melanie’s Law, courts could not consider drunk driving convictions more than 10 years old, and drivers lose their licenses for life on a fifth OUI offense. However, that wasn’t the case in 2001, when Parry reportedly received two OUI convictions. As a result, his license was suspended for just four years.

However, a spokesperson for the RMV noted that Melanie’s Law has helped to keep Parry off the road since 2005. Because he was not eligible for license reinstatement until 2006, the spokesperson noted, the requirements of Melanie’s Law applied when he did get his license back. That law required him to drive with an ignition interlock device, at his own expense, for two years. That ended in 2008, and the RMV reportedly took the step of notifying the police in his former town, Winthrop, about his record. In the current case, Melanie’s Law will certainly apply, which means Parry is facing a mandatory two to five years in prison, plus lifetime loss of his driver’s license. He also faces a dangerousness hearing, which means he could be held without bail until trial if the court decides he is a danger to the public.

As a Massachusetts drunk driving criminal defense lawyer, I appreciate that the Globe showed that current Massachusetts OUI law does not need to be strengthened. In fact, many criminal defense attorneys felt that Melanie’s Law was too harsh in some ways. Clearly, a “lifetime lookback” for past convictions is appropriate for someone like Perry. But for people who made one isolated mistake as young adults, the “lifetime lookback” means that mistake could haunt them forever. For a second conviction, even decades later, that person could face a mandatory 30 days in jail, a two-year license suspension and a mandatory ignition interlock device after the license is reinstated. That’s a lot of penalties for two offenses at opposite ends of a person’s adult life. And as I wrote recently, the Massachusetts legislature is considering requiring the devices after one OUI, making it clear that authorities are not eager to let drunk drivers off the hook.

Most drivers I represent don’t have anything like the lengthy record Parry has. But as a Massachusetts OUI criminal defense attorney, I recommend that drivers do everything they can to keep a first OUI off their records — so they don’t end up with a string of convictions with ever-increasing consequences.

Continue reading →

Published on:

A Beverly man has been charged with OUI and child endangerment and faces a dangerousness hearing after crashing his minivan with his two-year-old son inside. This article caught my eye, Massachusetts drunk driving defense attorney, because cases involving harm to children frequently attract significant media attention. The sensationalism with which cases like this are covered in the media often hurts a person’s chances of being treated fairly in court, which is why I’m glad this man hired a Massachusetts OUI defense lawyer who should make sure that his rights are respected.

According to New England Cable News, Dana Kessel, 40, was in charge of his three sons while his wife was out of town at a wedding. According to police, Kessel had drunk several beers and liquor at a bar before picking up his youngest son, age 2, from a birthday party. With the child in the car, he lost control of his minivan and slammed into a telephone pole on McPherson Drive. Police were investigating whether the child had been riding in a carseat, or using it correctly, since he was thrown from the backseat onto the dashboard by the crash. Witnesses told NECN that the boy was bleeding and hysterical, and that one witness tried to console the child. A police officer said on camera that the boy required stitches and suffered bruising to his internal organs, and that Kessel did not appear to care that the child was upset. Police also said that Kessel’s blood alcohol count was over twice the legal limit and he had bloodshot, glassy eyes; was unsteady on his feet; and slurred his speech. Kessel pleaded not guilty to third-offense OUI and child endangerment in Salem District Court and agreed to enter a 30-day alcohol treatment program. He will return to court for a pretrial dangerousness hearing on Nov. 16.

Read article: Father charged with OUI, child endangerment

As a Massachusetts intoxicated driving defense attorney, I know how important it is to ensure that the rights of each person charged with drunk driving are respected according to the law. That includes people accused of high-profile or widely reviled OUIs. No one wants to see children hurt in preventable drunk-driving accidents, least of all the children’s own parents. But I get concerned when police officers go on camera for a TV news report and start offering their own interpretations instead of the facts. In the NECN story, for example, the police officer commented that Kessel appeared to be totally unconcerned about his son, who was hysterical and bleeding. Those comments are an interpretation of Kessel’s behavior; for all the officer knew, he might have been in shock from the car wreck himself. Comments like this are inflammatory, and they suggest that the police have already decided that he is guilty, rather than extending to him the fair treatment that he is entitled to under the law.

Continue reading →

Published on:

As a Massachusetts OUI defense attorney, a recent news story caught my eye. The Salem News reported that a 57-year-old Danvers man was arrested for drunk driving for the eighth time and was held without bail after a dangerousness hearing. If convicted, this would represent a seventh DUI conviction for him, which would have serious, life-changing penalties like mandatory prison time and the lifetime loss of his driver’s license. Fortunately, he has a Massachusetts drunk driving attorney, who should look carefully at the evidence that police and the district attorney are presenting.

According to the police, on August 29, an anonymous caller told them that the driver of a Chevy Silverado truck was drunk and was headed to Merchant Liquors on High Street for more alcohol. Police set out to look for the truck and were unable to find it. Then Patrolman Scott Frost encountered Joel Grissom, 57, of Danvers, driving his Silverado at about 5 mph near his home around 1:30 in the afternoon. Frost said he observed Grissom stop his truck in the middle of the road and then take about two minutes to pull into the parking lot of his condominium complex. Frost said that Grissom smelled strongly of alcohol. There was an open, cold container of Budweiser in the truck, and Grissom was unable to stand without holding onto the truck’s door. Grissom allegedly said that he had been drinking. He failed a field sobriety test in which Frost told him to recite the alphabet. A breathalyzer test showed his blood alcohol content to be .33, well over the legal limit of .08. Grissom was arrested and charged with a fifth or subsequent OUI offense and with having an open container of alcohol.

After describing Grissom as “a high-functioning drunk,” Salem District Court Judge Richard Mori ordered him held without bail because Mori considered Grissom a danger to himself and others.

Read article: No bail for convict in many DUIs

As a Massachusetts drunk driving defense attorney, I am glad that this defendant has legal counsel to defend him from the very serious charges he faces. A fifth or subsequent OUI carries mandatory prison time, among other penalties. Grissom’s last two OUI convictions, in 2001 and 2002, were made before the “lifetime look back” law took effect, so he still had a valid license at the time of his August 29 arrest. But if convicted on the current charge, he would lose his license for the rest of his life. He would also pay fines up to $50,000, and face a mandatory two-year minimum jail sentence.

Even if Grissom is not convicted, the outcome of his dangerousness hearing already presents a hardship. Under Massachusetts law, judges can deny bail and keep drivers in jail until trial if they are charged with an OUI after having been convicted for drunk driving in the past three or more times. Such suspects may be kept in jail for up to 90 days before a trial must be held. Three months in jail awaiting trial is a long time, especially when it comes before any conviction. Even if the suspect is found innocent or the charges are dismissed, being kept in jail for 90 days could cause suspects to lose their jobs and other time-dependent commitments. If the suspect can’t work and earn money, he or she may not be able to keep up with rent or mortgage payments, and have nowhere to live by the time the 90 days are up. And what if there’s no one else to take care of their children or pets? If a suspect in this case is found not guilty or their charges are dismissed, being locked up for dangerousness still extracts a steep price.

Continue reading →