Sally Struthers, best known as her character “Gloria” in the 1970’s sitcom “All In The Family” will have her day in court for her drunk driving charge on September 23, 2013. Apparently, the actress was arrested last summer while she was performing at the Ogunquit Playhouse in the play “Nine To Five.” According to reports, Struthers was arrested at approximately 12:30 a.m. on September 12, 2012. The trial will take place a little over a year after the incident. She did not have any blood drawn and did not take a breath test.
In Massachusetts, in order for the government to prevail on a case on driving under the influence of alcohol it has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was driving the vehicle, on a public way and was under the influence. It is important to understand the “driving” in Massachusetts does NOT just mean having the car moving on the road. Simply having the keys in the ignition can constitute driving. There have been occasions in which a motorist has pulled over in a parking lot, believing it is best not
to drive, and left the keys in the ignition in order to listen to the radio or for heat and is still charged with “operating” under the influence. The fact that the car was not moving does not matter, the simply fact of having the keys in the ignition can constitute “operation” in Massachusetts. Therefore, if you are driving and think you need to pull over, take the keys out of the ignition!
In Massachusetts, the reason most cases go to trial is that a defendant claims that he or she is not “under the influence.” The Commonwealth generally calls police witnesses to testify to observations made relative to the operation of the car and what happened after the office approached the vehicle. An experienced Massachusetts drunk driving attorney can conduct an excellent cross examination to discredit the police officers. For example, if a car was pulled over because a motorist went through a red light or stop sign, a successful Boston defense attorney can highlight alternative reasons for the motor vehicle infraction such as bad weather and/or poor sign location or simply that the officer is not telling the truth or is mistaken.
Additionally, Massachusetts prosecutors often have the officers testify to the manner in which the motorist produced requested items such as a license and registration. In the event the officer testifies that the items were not produced in the manner in which he or she believed was appropriate an experienced Boston area drunk driving attorney can conduct an effective cross examination to take the punch out of the direct examination. For example, the police have been trained in asking specific questions and know their routine. For a nervous motorist, this type of situation is stressful and nervewracking so just listening and responding to the demands as requested is indicative of sobriety NOT being under the influence.
The Commonwealth also often relies on breath tests and blood tests to prove that the defendant’s blood alcohol was over the .08 limit. In the event a client has taken on of these tests there are many avenues that can be pursued to get this evidence suppressed or extrapolate the reading, taken at the station, back to the time that the client was driving and the result may very well have been within the legal limit at the time the vehicle was being operated. Relative to suppressing this information, it is important to examine all of the circumstances of the initial stop and the administration of the breathalyzer to ensure the stop was legal and the breathalyzer was properly administered. If any improprieties occurred in these areas a motion to suppress should be filed which can often lead to a favorable disposition or acquittal of a client.