On September 12, 2008 a 34 year old Ipswich man pleaded guilty to his 5th drunk driving charge in the Salem Superior Court. He received a sentence of 2 1/2 to 3 years in state prison. He will be on probation for 10 years after he is released from prison with 2 years home confinement. His license has been revoked for life.
In 2003 the defendant’s license was suspended for 5 years after he was convicted of his 4th drunk driving offense. Nevertheless, on September 19, 2007 the defendant again decided to drive. Again he did so under the influence of alcohol. The decision resulted in a head on collision in Hamilton. The victim was an 80 year old woman. According to the prosecution the defendant was driving down Asbury Street in Hamilton when he drove his car over the center lines and crashed head on into a pickup truck being driven by the victim. The defendant continued driving, this time down the wrong side of the street and hit another car being driving by a 49 year old woman. The pickup truck driver, her passenger and the other woman were all injured. The second victim was hospitalized for four days and is now unable to driver herself around.
At the scene the defendant smelled of alcohol, was combative, denied driving and insisted that someone stole his truck. He was bleeding and taken to the hospital where his blood alcohol registered at a .20. At the plea hearing the defendant’s lawyer stated that he had recently divorced, lost custody of his child and lost his business just prior to the crash. He admitted to being an alcoholic.
It appears that this defense attorney did a great job defending his client. By all accounts this was not a very triable case. There were witnesses to the crime, the defendant made incredible statements at the scene, he smelled of alcohol and his blood alcohol content was two and one half times the legal limit. Massachusetts General Laws chapter 90 section 24 imposes a mandatory 2 1/2 year sentence for convictions of fifth offense OUI. At least 24 months of that sentence must be served in accordance with the laws. Typically, where accidents and injuries result from a person operating under the influence of alcohol sentences are higher than that mandatory minimum. While the imposition of the home confinement and the state prison sentence (as opposed to a house of correction sentence) do exceed the mandatory minimum the added sanction is minimal. The judge could have imposed a sentence of 5 years in state prison for the 5th offense OUI and additional time for operating with a suspended license.
People faced with drunk driving charges are faced with difficult decisions. The laws now make pleading guilty more attractive because in many instances you can obtain restricted operating privileges almost immediately after your plea. Getting a case to trial often takes months during which you might not be able to drive. People defending against multiple offense allegations face stiffer penalties if convicted. You must keep in mind however that when defending second and subsequent offenses juries do not hear that you have prior convictions. This enables you to defend against the new offense only without having to worry that a jury will be prejudiced by your prior convictions.
An experienced Massachusetts OUI defense lawyer will be able to help you decide whether you should go to trial on your case. Call our office anytime to discuss your case. Our results in trying OUI cases are excellent. We encourage you to view our case results page for specific examples of our successes.