A woman from Watertown, Massachusetts was arrested for driving drunk last week, the Watertown Tab & Press reported Sept. 28. Jessie Witherspoon, 57, was arrested outside a 7-Eleven store at 12:46 a.m. The article says police responded after a caller reported an intoxicated person at the store. When officers arrived, they found Witherspoon trying to get into her car, which was parked across two spots. Under questioning, she admitted that she had driven to the 7-Eleven earlier. Law enforcement also gave her field sobriety tests, which she reportedly failed.
This article does not say whether officers gave Witherspoon a blood or breath test. If they did not, I believe an experienced Massachusetts drunk driving defense attorney could mount a strong defense in this case. In order to convict a driver without a blood-alcohol concentration reading, prosecutors must show that the driver had operated a vehicle under the influence of intoxicating liquor. As I have written here before, admitting to police that you had been drinking before you drove is not the same as admitting to operating under the influence. Prosecutors will have to use circumstantial evidence to make their case, and such evidence is far from foolproof.
The article also mentions that Witherspoon failed field sobriety tests. Law enforcement routinely uses these tests, but as I explain on my DUI defense Web page, they are often not admissible as evidence. For one thing, some of these tests are difficult for even sober people to perform, making them useless as evidence of intoxication. For another, thanks to a Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling, the horizontal gaze nystagmus (follow the finger) test is rarely admissible. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal agency that tracks traffic safety issues, has endorsed only two others: the walk-and-turn test and the one-legged stand. An experienced Massachusetts OUI defense lawyer should be able to exclude the inadmissible tests at trial and make a case to the jury that not every test is valid proof of intoxication.