Shayna Fernandez from Lawrence Massachusetts is charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, motor vehicle homicide and negligent operation of a motor vehicle following a car crash on June 11th that killed two people. According to The Lawrence Eagle Tribune, over the objection of the Assistant District Attorney, Judge Timothy Feeley reduced Ferndandez’s bail from fifty-thousand dollars to twelve thousand five hundred dollars. However, even if she makes bail she will be restricted to house arrest with conditions that she abstain from alcohol and driving, stay away from the victim’s families and remain on an electronic monitoring device. The Tribune reports that Ferndandez takes care of her severely disabled younger sister and lives at home with her mother.
According to sources, Ferndandez admitted to the police that she had been drinking beer up to four thirty in the morning; two hours before the accident. Although Ferdnandez escaped the crash without injuries, the driver of the other vehicle and one passenger were killed. Another passenger in the other car was treated and released from the Lawrence General Hospital.
Recognizing that all of the facts are not known at this time, it appears that at the time of the incident Ferndandez stated that the accident occurred when she was traveling in the left lane and a Blazer with a small watercraft and trailer attached were in the center lane. As Ferndandez attempted to enter the center lane the Blazer began to change lanes and the cars collided.
In order to prove the charge of operating under the influence of alcohol the Commonwealth must prove that a defendant was driving a motor vehicle on a public way while under the influence of alcohol. In most cases, the contested issue is usually whether the defendant was “under the influence” of alcohol. Massachusetts does not call this crime “drunk driving” as the Commonwealth does not have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant was “drunk.” Being “drunk” and “under the influence” are two different things. It is not a crime in Massachusetts to have alcohol and drive. However, the Commonwealth does not have to prove that a person is “drunk” to secure a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol.
In Massachusetts the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely has been impaired by alcohol. In many cases the way that the District Attorney’s Office tries to prove its case is to present evidence of poor driving, odor of alcohol, slurred speech and red glassy eyes. This type of testimony by the police officers coupled with observations of a defendant’s performance on “field sobriety tests” and perhaps breathalyzer results are a typical scenario for an “operating under the influence” jury trial.
Much of this type of testimony can be neutralized with an experienced Boston OUI lawyer. For example, during cross examination it is important to point out that law enforcement cannot tell how much someone drank or when someone had their last drink based simply on an odor of alcohol. Furthermore, there are many reasons that an individual’s eyes could be red such as allergies, tiredness and eyes strain. Also, there are specific guidelines that the police must follow in order for the “field sobriety” tests to be probative; many of these conditions are not always met. Finally, in the event that a defendant took a breathalyzer test a defendant must ensure that the breathalyzer machine was properly calibrated and functioning and that the breathalyzer operator was appropriately certified.