Articles Posted in OUI After License Suspended For OUI

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A man from Charlton was sent to prison Feb. 24 after receiving his seventh conviction for operating under the influence. Jason Wetteland, 40, was arrested most recently on Aug. 1, 2009, after an Amesbury police officer witnessed him nearly causing a crash on Route 110. The officer immediately pulled him over, and Wetteland allegedly admitted he was drunk. He was holding a bottle of blackberry brandy between his legs and had at least eight cans out of a 12-pack of beer in the vehicle. Nonetheless, Wetteland refused to take a blood-alcohol concentration test. He pleaded guilty to a fifth or subsequent OUI; driving after license suspension, subsequent offense; and negligent driving.

For the OUI conviction, Wetteland was sentenced to up to five years in prison and eight years of probation, plus fines. He also lost his license to drive and was sentenced to time served for driving with a suspended license. As conditions of his probation, he will be required to attend alcohol classes; stay away from drugs and alcohol; submit to random tests; and will not be allowed to drive. His prior convictions for operating under the influence took place in 1988, 1990, 1991, 1991 again, 1999 and 2001, in Dudley, Worcester and East Brookfield courts.

Read article: Chronic DUI offender heads to state prison

Drivers like this do not represent the bulk of my clients as a Massachusetts OUI criminal defense attorney. Studies show that the majority of first-time drunk driving defendants do not commit another drunk driving offense — they learn from their mistake and move on. However, a minority are chronic drunk drivers, who may have a problem with alcohol that can’t be solved by a 12-month license suspension. The harsh penalties they face are not aimed at first-time drunk drivers, but a look at those penalties shows how important it is to defend yourself from a first OUI, so that subsequent-offense penalties are not available to prosecutors.

A first offender in Massachusetts is likely to get probation rather than jail time (although jail time is an option), fines and fees and a license suspension of one year, with a hardship license available after three months. Alternative disposition (the 24D program) is also available for first offenders, which allows them lower fines, a shorter license suspension and no possibility of jail. These penalties get harsher with each subsequent offense. A fifth or subsequent offense like Wetteland’s carries mandatory prison time of at least two years, and up to five; steep fees; and the lifetime loss of a driver’s license. This is why people charged with a first OUI should, whenever possible, get help from an experienced Massachusetts drunk driving defense lawyer — so they can keep that first OUI off their records. In the best cases, this allows them to learn from their mistakes without the need for life-altering penalties.

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Last month, I wrote about the use of ignition interlock devices in Massachusetts drunk driving cases. Under Melanie’s Law, courts may order repeat OUI offenders to install these mobile breathalyzers in their vehicles, at their own expense. The devices were originally hailed as an effective way to stop drunk driving, but as I wrote in January, citizens and Massachusetts OUI defense attorneys have raised significant questions about their effectiveness, reliability and safety.

Now, a report from the Record of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada suggests that ignition interlock devices may someday be outmoded by a new technology. The Feb. 12 article says Sober Steering Sensors Canada Inc. is developing a type of chemical sensor that can detect what it calls the gas byproducts of alcohol though a person’s skin. The company is developing a steering wheel that incorporates the sensors. As with IIDs, the system would not allow the vehicle to start if it detects a high BAC. The Record said the company is already testing the technology in “fleet” vehicles, including buses and large trucks. Both MADD and the auto insurance industry have expressed interest, and the company’s founder was slated to talk to Florida’s state legislature about the technology Feb. 15.

The article said Sober Steering’s product may improve on IIDs for several reasons. IIDs require a “clean” breath test before they allow the vehicle to start. Drivers can get around this by having another person take the test. For this reason, IIDs also require a “rolling retest,” which means retaking the breath test while the vehicle is in motion. Critics believe this is not safe, especially since the car can shut down in traffic if the driver can’t find a safe place to pull over and take the test. The Sober Steering technology can take rolling retests without the driver having to do anything but keep his or her hands on the wheel. Sober Steering claims its technology can tell the difference between alcohol consumption and alcohol from hand sanitizer, mouthwash or other products, a common criticism of breathalyzers. And the cost of installing it is a sixth to a tenth of the cost of an IID, the article said.

As a Massachusetts drunk driving criminal defense lawyer, I agree that this could solve some of the drawbacks of IIDs, though not all of them. (Drivers could still illegally borrow someone else’s car, for example.) But I believe states and provinces should take a hard look at the technology before rushing to adopt it. For example, how finely tuned is the technology? Can it tell when a driver is wearing gloves? Can it consistently distinguish between a legal BAC of 0.07 and an illegal 0.08? Serious flaws, like the well-documented problems with breathalyzers, could allow defendants to fight their cases. Another concern has to do with the constitutional right of defendants to face their accusers. In cases of drunk driving, the test device is generally considered the “accuser,” which has led to court cases, successful in some states, demanding that the source code behind breathalyzer machines be publicly released. If Sober Steering’s technology will be used in the United States, the company should release its technology to allow defendants to build the best possible defenses.

The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman represents clients throughout eastern Massachusetts who are charged with operating under the influence and related crimes. If you’re facing charges, don’t hesitate to contact us for help. For a free phone consultation, please call (617) 263-6800 or send a message through the Web site.

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A North Reading man was arrested for operating under the influence on the day after his driver’s license was returned to him, the Salem News reported Dec. 8. James Malone had lost his license for six months because of a previous OUI conviction from Woburn. He was driving from Peabody into Salem Dec. 4 when another driver called the police to report erratic driving. Responding officers saw Malone run a stop sign and pulled him over. According to police, he tried 20 times to open the door but failed, and instead rolled down the window. Officers noticed several other signs of intoxication, and Malone failed field sobriety tests. While attempting to perform them, he reportedly urinated on himself. Two breath tests registered 0.20 and 0.21 BAC readings, far over the legal limit of 0.08. Officers seized and destroyed his license at the station and charged him with a third-offense OUI as well as failure to stop for the stop sign.

Read article: Suspect back on road for one day

Under these circumstances, I’m glad that Malone already has a Massachusetts drunk driving defense lawyer. In fact, the article suggests charges from Malone’s previous offense in Woburn are still pending. This means a third OUI charge may not be legally appropriate, although the previous charge is likely to be resolved before Malone faces trial on the most recent charge. A third drunk driving offense is a serious crime charged as a felony in Massachusetts, not a misdemeanor like earlier OUIs, so Malone would be facing a felony conviction if he loses his case. Third offenses also carry mandatory jail or prison time, an eight-year driver’s license suspension and fines of up to $15,000. And under Melanie’s Law, Malone would be eligible for an ignition interlock device if he gets a hardship license, for which he would be eligible after four years.

Because these penalties are so serious, it’s important for people facing them to make sure they have the best possible defenses ready. Even drivers who feel a guilty plea is more appropriate can benefit from the help of an experienced Massachusetts OUI criminal defense attorney, who can negotiate for the fairest possible penalties in exchange for the plea.

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A Marblehead man was charged with his fifth OUI, among other things, and held without bail in Salem. The Daily Item of Lynn reported Nov. 5 that Melvin McKenzie, 50, was arraigned Nov. 4 for charges stemming from a traffic stop in July. Police said McKenzie was stopped in Marblehead for speeding and leaving a marked lane. After the stop, an officer noticed a smell of alcohol and found a pint of vodka in his lunch box. The officer also found that McKenzie was driving with a suspended license, and was on probation for a previous drunk driving conviction. He was charged with a fifth OUI, OUI after license suspension, negligent driving and reckless driving and pleaded not guilty to all charges. After a dangerousness hearing, the judge in the case found that McKenzie couldn’t safely be released and ordered him held 90 days without bail. His trial is set for Dec. 14.

Read article: Marblehead driver held on 5th DUI

As a Massachusetts OUI defense attorney, I am glad that this defendant has retained legal counsel to defend him from the very serious charges he faces. A fifth OUI carries mandatory prison time and the lifetime loss of the driver’s license, as well as very steep fines. That’s true even in cases like this one, where there was no accident and nobody was harmed by the alleged drunk driving. When the stakes are this high, defendants should take advantage of every defense they have — which is significantly easier with an attorney by their sides.

I would also like to take the opportunity to highlight the use of a dangerousness hearing in this case. A dangerousness hearing is essentially a hearing on whether the defendant should be granted any bail at all, or simply kept in jail. It can be used in any type of Massachusetts criminal case. Relative to OUI cases, this statute is used primarily for cases where the defendant has four or more previous convictions or where a subsequent offender has caused serious injury. As it relates to dangerousness hearings, in drunk driving cases, the prosecution’s goal is to prove that the defendant is likely to drive drunk again. If you’re facing a dangerousness hearing, you’re facing the loss of your freedom before any trial or conviction can take place. The importance of retaining an experienced Massachusetts drunk driving defense lawyer in this situation cannot be overstated.

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A 26-year-old Groveland, Massachusetts man was arrested on multiple charges after leading police agencies on a car chase in northeastern Massachusetts, the Georgetown Record reported Sept. 22. Scott Berube already had two outstanding warrants for operating under the influence of liquor, which the newspaper said were second and third offenses. Earlier on the day of the chase, he was also allegedly involved in a hit-and-run accident. Around 10 p.m., a police officer spotted Berube at a Haverhill, Massachusetts gas station, gave chase and called for backup.

Once backup arrived, the officers tried to stop Berube by positioning their vehicles on either side of his. However, Berube drove directly at both officers, forcing them to jump out of the way. All in all, he drove through at least four towns before Georgetown, Massachusetts police were able to stop his vehicle with a device that punctured his tires. Berube fled on foot, leaving a passenger behind, but was caught with the help of a helicopter and K-9 unit. Police found several controlled substances in the crashed vehicle, including marijuana, Xanax, Percocet and acetaminophen with codeine. Both Berube and his passenger were charged with possession of those substances, with intent to distribute the marijuana and Xanax. Berube was also charged with DUI drugs, failure to stop for police, driving without a license and assaulting a police officer, among other charges, and the two outstanding warrants.

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Police arrest man after multi-town chase that ends in Georgetown

Second and third OUI charges may sound scary, but a smart, experienced Massachusetts DUI defense lawyer can find multiple avenues of defense, depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, a charge of OUI drugs may be dropped if the defendant can show that he was not actually impaired, regardless of whether he took any drugs. But because Berube did not handle the earlier charges against him, he ended up fleeing the police and receiving a significant number of new charges. Now he will almost certainly need a good Massachusetts intoxicated driving lawyer to help sort through this tangle of charges and minimize the damage to his life and his family.

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A Holbrook man was arrested last weekend on his second charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. Shortly after midnight on Aug. 29, another driver called the police in Braintree, Massachusetts to report that a Pontiac Grand Am was driving erratically. A police officer responded and pulled over a 25-year-old Holbook man after watching him drive. According to a police spokesman, the man showed signs of intoxication after he was stopped, and did poorly on sobriety tests at the scene. He was arrested for operating under the influence of liquor as well as unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, because his license was valid only between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

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Man charged with drunk driving in Braintree

Even if the article had not said this was the defendant’s second OUI charge, my experience as a Massachusetts drunk driving defense lawyer would have made me suspect it. The man’s license restricted his driving privileges to just 12 hours a day, suggesting that he was driving with a “hardship license.” The RMV grants these licenses to people who have had their drivers’ licenses suspended because of an OUI. Unfortunately for this defendant, if he is found (or pleads) guilty of intoxicated driving in this new case, obtaining a new hardship license will not be easy. On a second offense, the RMV will not consider a granting hardship license until the license has been suspended for an entire year. When it does consider the driver’s case, the agency requires a $700 fee just for the hearing, along with proof that the driver has complied with the OUI penalties.

Depending on the circumstances, this man may be able to mount a strong defense to this new OUI charge. As a Boston OUI defense attorney, I know how important that is. A second drunk driving charge is still a misdemeanor in Massachusetts, but the penalties go up dramatically from a first offense. The law calls for at least thirty days and up to 2 1/2 years in jail for a second offense, plus fines of up to $10,000. Alternatively, second offenders may be given two years of probation and two weeks in an inpatient alcohol treatment program at their own expense. These are in addition to a two-year license suspension, steep court fees, an ignition interlock device and skyrocketing auto insurance rates. These penalties are so severe that if you face them, it’s always worth talking to a Boston DUI defense attorney about mounting a strong defense.

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Malden, Massachusetts resident Bernard Shidlow pleaded guilty to several offenses last week one of which was his fourth OUI charge. The alcohol related charges were operating under the influence, fourth offense, operating a motor vehicle with a license that was suspended for DUI, leaving the scene after an accident with property damage and negligent operation of a motor vehicle. He was sentenced to three years in state prison for the fourth offense drunk driving and to one year in state prison to be served from and after on the operating on a suspended license for drunk driving.

It was reported that Shidlow was driving 70 mph in a 50 mph zone. A state trooper pursued Shidlow after which the defendant got into an accident with another car. He then tried to avoid apprehension but was caught after driving to the end of a one way street. Police discovered that his license had been suspended for another DUI.

Fourth Offense DUI Results In Four Year Sentence For Massachusetts Man

This case was prosecuted in the Essex County Superior Court. While not all fourth offense DUI cases are indicted it is easy to see why the district attorney made the decision in this case. The prosecution undoubtedly believed that Shidlow needed to spend time in state prison. The crime of OUI with a license suspended for another OUI is a part of Melanie’s Law. This crime carries a one year mandatory jail sentence. The fourth offense OUI carries another mandatory one year jail sentence. Apparently the judge in this case believed that a one or two year house of correction sentence was warranted. You can bet that the accident and the defendant’s flight from the scene impacted this decision.

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