Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Homicide OUI

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Shayna Fernandez admitted to drinking her last beer as late as 4:30 in the morning this past Saturday. Just over two hours later she was involved in an accident on Route 93 in Andover. As a result of that accident two people died and one was injured. According to reports Fernandez had recently dropped a friend off in Lowell. She ended up on Route 93 northbound. Witnesses have indicated that she might have been driving as fast as ninety miles per hour in the far left lane when she hit a car being driven by a sixty two year old Saugus man. The victim’s car rolled over. The driver and one of his passengers were killed and a third man survived with injuries. Fernandez failed Field Sobriety Tests at the scene. She took a Breathalyzer Test and blew a .145, nearly two times the legal limit. Bail was set at fifty thousand dollars cash. The case will likely be prosecuted in the Salem Superior Court even though the district courts have jurisdiction over the charges. Fernandez is being charged with two counts of Motor Vehicle Homicide, Negligent Operation, OUI and assorted Criminal Motor Vehicle Offenses. A conviction for these crimes will likely result in a state prison sentence for Fernandez.

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Read Articles:

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/06/14/woman_pleads_not_guilty_in_fatal_andover_crash/

http://www.eagletribune.com/local/x1814654783/Lawrence-woman-held-on-50K-after-double-fatal-crash

Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Homicide Defense Lawyer

Any Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer will tell you there is no up side to taking a Breathalyzer Test, and in most instances the same sentiment applies to Field Sobriety Tests. Fernandez’s problems defending this case will no doubt be compounded by the negative results generated by these tests. Jurors rarely acquit where high readings are involved. Eyewitness testimony about the rate of speed at which she was traveling was sufficiently damaging to her defense particularly in a case where death resulted. An accident reconstruction will likely be performed by the state police, possibly supporting the eyewitness’ observations. Driving ninety miles per hour with the death of innocent people resulting, will, in and of itself trigger a criminal prosecution. A suspicion of alcohol ingestion or intoxication magnifies the problem. However, failed tests validate the subjective findings of the police and make defending this case extremely difficult. It is important to remember that in Massachusetts the prosecutor cannot mention to a jury that a defendant refused to take a breathalyzer test. Nor can the district attorney comment on a failure to attempt to perform field sobriety tests. What they can do is take the results of these tests, if taken, and use them to support their prosecution. It is much easier to defend someone who has not taken these tests.

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As a Massachusetts intoxicated driving criminal defense attorney, I was saddened to read about an accident in Lynn that took a young woman’s life. Julie Gauthier, 19 and of Salem, died March 21 while her allegedly drunk boyfriend was driving her home from a party. Christopher Maxson of Marblehead, also 19, is accused of drinking before he ran two stop signs, hit another vehicle and collided with three parked cars before overturning and hitting a fourth. Gauthier was ejected from the vehicle’s sunroof and died at the scene, while Maxson and two other passengers sustained only minor injuries. The Boston Globe reported March 23 that Maxson has pleaded not guilty to motor vehicle homicide while operating under the influence.

Lynn police and school authorities highlighted the fatal accident when they began speaking to parents about the importance of safety during the school district’s upcoming proms. The Daily Item of Lynn reported March 31 that authorities held the first of three Parent Prom Safety Information Nights at Lynn Classical on March 25. Just four days after the crash, police officers emphasized that it could have happened to anyone — even kids who weren’t drinking or doing drugs. Police officers who spoke said prom is a time for students to make wise decisions, and emphasized the dangers of drinking and driving.

But a local prosecutor also emphasized the Commonwealth’s “social host” laws. Enacted in 1998 after a fatal OUI accident, social host laws penalize people who provide alcohol to minors. In fact, the prosecutor said, parents don’t need to have bought the alcohol themselves, or even be home, to be criminally prosecuted for knowingly allowing kids to drink alcohol under their roofs. If convicted of furnishing alcohol to a minor, parents and others face up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $2,000 or both. And regardless of whether they are convicted, the presentation said, they can also be sued in civil court, an expensive and emotionally difficult prospect even if they win the case.

As a Massachusetts OUI criminal defense lawyer, I’d like to discuss this law further, because it allows criminal prosecution in several situations that most people would not consider criminal. Parents are allowed to serve their own minor children alcohol in Massachusetts, but under the social host law, they may not furnish alcohol to other minors. Nor may they knowingly allow their minor children to furnish alcohol to other minors. The definition of “furnish” includes intentionally allowing someone under 21 to have alcohol on property under your control. An overzealous prosecutor could interpret this as allowing criminal charges for parents whose teenagers get into alcohol left in plain view, even when they didn’t expect or give permission for their kids to drink it. In cases where the parent can prove they didn’t provide the alcohol themselves, teenagers can still be criminally charged for giving alcohol to their friends.

The social host law can be used even when there was no car crash or other harm from the drinking. That means parents can be criminally penalized for doing something that’s no big deal in most other Western nations — allowing a young adult to have a drink with dinner. As a Massachusetts drunk driving criminal defense attorney, I know very well that drinking and driving can have life-altering or even fatal consequences. As prom season approaches, teenagers and parents should remember that. But the social host law applies to any situation in which a minor under 21 is given alcohol — not just dangerous drunk-driving situations. Safe, responsible drinking by someone who just happens to be under 21 shouldn’t expose a teenager — or a parent — to a criminal record.

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One young man from Norwell is dead and another faces prison after a bad drunk driving accident, the Quincy Patriot Ledger reported March 9. Ryan O’Donnell, 18, was killed in a rollover crash in Norwell March 7. He was a passenger in a vehicle driven by a friend and former classmate, William Ecclestone, also 18 and from Norwell. Ecclestone is accused of being intoxicated when he drove his car into a tree, causing it to roll over. Ecclestone suffered minor injuries and was able to leave the vehicle on his own, but O’Donnell died at the hospital of his injuries. Police say Ecclestone showed signs of intoxication and failed a sobriety test. He is charged with motor vehicle manslaughter, vehicular homicide by negligent driving, OUI, reckless driving, speeding and leaving a marked lane.

This terrible accident caught my attention, as a Massachusetts intoxicated driving defense attorney, because the crash was very serious, but also because the young men were friends who had graduated from the same small, close-knit high school. I was interested to see a related opinion piece written by another 2009 graduate of Norwell High School, Nicholas Russo, who is now at Lyndon State College in Vermont. Russo said the high school had staged a mock crash when they were seniors, which was “a carbon copy” of the one that took O’Donnell’s life. The students watched as firefighters worked to free students from the mock crash and took one away in a body bag, while the student’s father watched. Afterward, he said, students swore to an adviser that they couldn’t imagine driving drunk after seeing that.

Russo suspected at the time that this was not true — and less than a year later, he has some evidence that he was right. Too many people think it can’t happen to them, he wrote. He ended the article by asking readers to remember that there are permanent consequences to driving drunk.

As a Massachusetts OUI criminal defense lawyer, I’m afraid Russo is probably right. It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that people won’t stop doing something just because they know it’s not safe — for example, smoking. But there’s a second side to these mock crashes that students don’t see much of, and that’s the fact that drunk driving is a crime. Police officers may “arrest” the driver in the mock crash at the scene, but it’s difficult to drive home the seriousness of the consequences that driver would face. To do that, you have to think about the driver’s experience as he or she moves through the criminal justice system.

In the crash that killed O’Donnell, Ecclestone is facing multiple charges. A charge of felony motor vehicle homicide carries up to 15 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum of 1 year. A charge of vehicular manslaughter with OUI, which is less common, carries a mandatory minimum of five years and up to 20. A conviction may also mean driver’s license revocation for life. His future plans may grind to a halt at the age of 18. All of this is on top of living with the knowledge that his actions are responsible for his friend’s death. If you’re facing charges this serious, you need to speak to an experienced Massachusetts drunk driving defense lawyer right away.

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A young man was arraigned for Feb. 8 driving drunk in an accident that killed another man, WCVB Boston reported. Prosecutors say David Diaz, 23, was drunk and asleep at the wheel when he hit Lay Bou, 56, on Route 110 in Methuen. Bou was jogging facing oncoming traffic, as was his habit, when Diaz hit him around 8:30 a.m. Bou was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Diaz also suffered minor injuries and was taken to the hospital. There, a blood test showed he had a BAC of 0.16, twice the legal limit. Prosecutors say Diaz told police he doesn’t remember the crash, and accuse him of falling asleep at the wheel. According to the article, Diaz said he had left work around 3 a.m. and drank several beers at a friend’s house.

At the arraignment, Diaz was charged with operating under the influence, felony motor vehicle homicide and failure to stay in his lane. He pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. The judge in the case ordered $10,000 bail, but said that if Diaz posts bail, conditions of his release include submitting to breathalyzer tests and giving up his passport.

Read article: Prosecutor: Drunken Driver Asleep At Wheel

If he has not already done so Diaz must retain the services of a Massachusetts OUI defense attorney, because these are serious allegations. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison on the felony motor vehicle homicide charge, plus potential jail time for the OUI charge as well. Importantly, however, the prosecution cannot convict on this charge simply by showing that the defendant was driving drunk when the fatal accident happened. In order to obtain a felony conviction, prosecutors must also show that the defendant was operating recklessly or negligently. This can be tough, because a lot depends on the circumstances of the crash and how well they are documented. If prosecutors can’t prove recklessness or negligence, they would have to reduce the charge down to misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide, which doesn’t require a recklessness showing. That charge carries up to two and a half years in prison, substantially less than the maximum of 15 for the felony charge. An experienced Massachusetts drunk driving criminal defense lawyer may also be able to challenge the blood test in court, if its validity, accuracy or chain of custody are suspect.

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More than two years after a fatal accident, a Taunton man was acquitted of drunk driving but found guilty of vehicular homicide. According to a Nov. 2 article in the Taunton Daily Gazette, Edward Leonard, 36, faces up to 2 1/2 years in prison for his role in the accident that killed Jennifer Walker, 25, in March of 2007. Leonard was originally charged with operating under the influence of alcohol with serious bodily injury, OUI manslaughter and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. However, after a five-day trial, the jury found him guilty only of vehicular homicide by negligence. That dropped his potential maximum sentence from about 15 years to 2 1/2 years. He will be sentenced Dec. 10.

Prosecutors said Leonard had been drinking on the night of the accident, and was driving behind a friend toward another bar when the accident happened. They were on Route 44 when Leonard’s truck collided with a 1990 Oldsmobile driven by Richard Gould. The crash killed Walker, a passenger in Gould’s car, and flipped over Leonard’s truck. The prosecution and defense disagreed on whether Gould, Leonard or both veered into oncoming traffic, and whether Leonard was speeding. However, it was not disputed that Gould himself had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.10. Police at the scene and a bystander said Leonard appeared intoxicated, and police found open beers in the truck. However, Leonard disobeyed police directions to remain on the scene, traveling with his friend to another friend’s home in Providence. He turned himself in the next day.

Read article: Taunton man guilty of vehicular homicide, acquitted of manslaughter in 2007 fatal crash

As a Massachusetts OUI defense attorney, I believe this story is a great example of why drivers charged with OUI shouldn’t assume they’re guilty just because law enforcement says they are. It’s not hard to imagine that Leonard might have felt hopeless at the beginning of his case. Not only did a young woman lose her life, but police accused Leonard of drinking, speeding and swerving into oncoming traffic, charges that could have put him in prison for more than a decade. Those accusations might seem pretty damning — but as this case shows, more information can make a big difference in the outcome of a case. Leonard’s Massachusetts drunk driving defense lawyer successfully challenged the police accident reconstruction with an expert of their own. And the lack of firm evidence that Leonard was drunk at the time was apparently enough to raise reasonable doubts — the standard for a criminal conviction — in the minds of the jurors. Cases like this show why it’s so important to speak with an attorney before pleading guilty in any OUI case.

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A man from Attleboro is charged with OUI, motor vehicle homicide, OUI with serious bodily injury, speeding and negligent operation of a motor vehicle after a serious one-car crash in Bourne, the Boston Globe reported Oct. 19. Shawn Potrzuski, 32, is accused of killing his stepfather, 46-year-old Robert Coffey, and seriously injuring his mother, Karen Coffey, when he lost control of his Dodge Durango in a rotary, causing him to run off the road and into a tree. Potrzuski was treated at the scene for minor injuries. The family was reportedly coming home from a wedding. Police said both alcohol and speed were factors; Richard Coffey was not wearing a seat belt, but Karen Coffey was.

Read article: North Attleborough man dies, stepson faces charges in crash

The article doesn’t note whether Potrzuski’s breath or blood was tested or what other evidence law enforcement may have to support the OUI charge, making it difficult to speculate on how a Massachusetts OUI defense lawyer might defend him. But under the circumstances, the criminal charges may not be the most important thing on Potrzuski’s mind. This crash killed Potrzuski’s stepfather and seriously injured his mother, something that would greatly upset most people. While criminal charges may be legally appropriate, the outcome of the crash may be punishment enough in itself for many drivers.

If the evidence that Potrzuski was driving drunk is weak, incomplete or tainted, he may be able to fight the OUI-related charges on those grounds. (Of course, that is also true of the other charges.) But even if that evidence is strong, an experienced Massachusetts drunk driving defense attorney may be able to show a judge or jury enough doubt in the district attorney’s case to get an acquittal for his client.

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A 47-year-old mother was killed and her daughter and a friend were injured in a serious drunk driving accident in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the Patriot Ledger of Quincy reported Sept. 22. Timothy George of Brockton, Massachusetts was allegedly drunk and high on cocaine when he hit a vehicle driven by Elizabeth Oldrid. According to the article, police believe George was driving at 70 mph down Route 14 in Plymouth — where the speed limit is 45 mph — at around 8:30 p.m. Saturday night. He was seen passing other vehicles before swerving into oncoming traffic, where he hit Oldrid’s vehicle, killing her at the scene. Her 17-year-old daughter, Alexandria Oldrid, was treated and released from a hospital. A 15-year-old friend, Savannah Alexander, was hospitalized in fair condition in Boston.

At the scene, officers said George, 32, smelled of alcohol and had glassy eyes and slurred speech. They found cocaine and a device for snorting cocaine in his possession. He was arrested and charged with two counts of negligent homicide by motor vehicle — one for driving drunk and one for operating under the influence of drugs. His other charges include DUI with serious bodily injury; drug possession; speeding; and illegal passing. He was arraigned Sept. 21 and pleaded not guilty, then held on $20,000 bail.

Read article: Judge sets $20,000 bail for Brockton man accused in fatal Pembroke crash

My experience as a Massachusetts DUI defense attorney suggests that at least part of this case will be difficult to defend at trial. If the reports in the article are true, there are witnesses who can testify that George was speeding and passing — and police found the cocaine in his possession. However, the DUI case, be it drugs or alcohol, might be harder to prove. In order to convict a driver of OUI drugs, the prosecution must prove that the driver took drugs, and that those drugs impaired the driver. Impairment is not always easy to prove, especially if the driver was also allegedly drunk, as in this case. Similarly, the prosecution must also prove impairment by alcohol to get a drunk driving conviction — and having had some drinks is not the same as driving while impaired. An experienced Massachusetts drunk driving defense lawyer will argue points like these in defense of his client.

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Last weekend just before 1:00 a.m. Jacqueline Boutin was driving her husband Michael and Peter Colangelo off of Route 140 when she noticed a car rapidly approaching her from behind. The trailing car that was being operated by Colleen Imgemanson ended up hitting Boutin’s car and knocking it on its side. Michael Boutin was temporarily trapped but was quickly extricated by the Taunton, Massachusetts Fire Department. It took longer to free Colangelo who was airlifted to the Boston Medical Center where he ultimately died. Boutin and her husband sustained injuries requiring a brief hospitalization at the Morton Hospital. A Taunton police officer responded to the scene after receiving reports that a woman had fled the crash on foot. He then observed Ingemanson walking unsteadily not far from the crash site. Ingemanson admitted to having driven the car. The officer reported that she smelled of alcohol and that she could not pass the field sobriety tests that were administered. Her eyes were bloodshot and her speech was slurred. She refused to take the breathalyzer test. Ingemanson has been charged with Motor Vehicle Homicide While OUI, OUI Second Offense. Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Death Resulting, Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle and Leaving the Scene with Personal Injury. Charges are now pending in the Taunton District Court.

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Massachusetts Woman Looking At Motor Vehicle Charges, OUI After Fatal Accident

Cases like this one are very difficult to defend. Even if the defendant has a valid defense to the OUI Charge the charge of Leaving the Scene of An Accident With Personal Injury or Death will result in a one year minimum mandatory jail sentence. It is probable that the district attorney in this case will be indicting this case and prosecuting it in the Superior Court. There, if convicted the judge can sentence the defendant to a state prison sentence. The district attorney’s office will undoubtedly be looking for a state prison sentence after a conviction. Even if the defendant wants to plead guilty a state prison sentence will be strongly considered by the judge.

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Jonathan Muir is just twenty one years old and he has a tremendous legal battle ahead of him. Just over a week ago Muir was driving a 1984 sports car at around 1:30 a.m. Muir apparently lost control of the car and struck a tree. One of his three passengers was killed while two others were injured. Muir now stands charged with Motor Vehicle Homicide while OUI. Muir has also been charged with two counts of causing serious bodily injury while under the influence of alcohol and operating negligently so as to endanger.

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21 Year Old Massachusetts Man Charged With Motor Vehicle Homicide While OUI

The article failed to report whether a blood alcohol reading was obtained from Muir. An article in Cape Cod Times reported that Muir too was injured and was taken to a hospital for treatment. It is probable that the hospital took a blood sample from Muir which is protocol for treating patients who are admitted. A toxicology work up would disclose Muir’s blood alcohol level, if any. The blood tests are the most accurate however they are fallible. I have blogged on this in the past. In scrutinizing blood tests criminal defense lawyers look for possible blood sample contamination. If contamination is demonstrated then we try to get a judge to exclude evidence of the defendant’s blood alcohol level. The issue of impairment can also be challenged if the blood readings are not consistent with the amount of alcohol consumed.

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Over the holiday weekend Jason Spurlin was driving with his girlfriend, Amanda Murray and two others, Anna Dubois and Nick Kelly. According to the police he was drunk and speeding. He lost control of his car around 1:15 in the morning, left the road and struck a tree. Spurlin survived but all passengers were killed. Apparently Murray and Spurlin have a five week old child together. Spurlin will now likely have to face three counts of Motor Vehicle Homicide. At least for now the case will be prosecuted in the Wrentham District Court.

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Three Killed In Massachusetts Drunk Driving Accident, Driver To Face OUI Motor Vehicle Homicide Charges

The biggest question raised by this article is how did the police determine that Spurlin was drunk at the time of the accident. There is no mention of a breathalyzer test or field sobriety tests nor is there any indication that there exist any witnesses to the accident. It is likely that if Spurlin was injured during the crash he was taken to the hospital. There, his blood might have been taken as is often the case when people get admitted to the hospital. While these tests are the most reliable forms of evaluating a person’s blood alcohol level they certainly are not infallible. Not all technicians are properly trained in taking the blood sample particularly in the case where they might be looking to test for alcohol. For instance, if yeast in introduced into the blood sample it might yield an inaccurate high false positive reading. Contaminated tubing can effect the reading. Improper labeling of the sample can be problematic. Swabbing with alcohol will often result in a high reading that lacks accuracy. If blood is the determining factor in Spurlin’s case there is no doubt that his attorney will scrutinize the process by which the blood was taken and analyzed.

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