OUI Drugs

If you’ve been charged with operating under the influence of drugs you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. These charges are often very defensible. In order to prove an OUI drugs the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you 1. Operated the vehicle , 2. on a public way; a road the public has access to, 3. that you were under the influence of drugs when you operated the vehicle and 4. that the drug you consumed was one of the drugs prohibited under the statute. Elements 3. and 4. can often be difficult for the Commonwealth to prove.

Under the Influence of a Drug

In order to be considered under the influence of a drug the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you consumed enough of the drug to reduce your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely by diminishing your alertness, judgment, and ability to respond promptly. What does this mean in a practical sense? How much of a drug must a person consume to be under the influence? What does it look like when someone has consumed enough of a drug to decrease their alertness? These are all difficult questions for the Commonwealth to prove.

Drug Recognition Experts (DREs)

It is difficult for the Commonwealth to prove a person is under the influence of drugs when the officers who are called to testify don’t have training in how to detect drug impairment. There are some officers who are specially trained in drug recognition they are called drug recognition experts. However there are a limited number of these officers and not every OUI drugs case will have a report from one. Even if you have been evaluated by a drug recognition expert an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to limit the impact of the testimony of the expert. There is a strict protocol that must be followed in a drug recognition exam and an attorney can screen your case and see if the protocol was followed. If not you may have grounds to have the exam excluded from evidence.

Under the Influence of Marijuana

It is especially difficult for the Commonwealth to prove OUI marijuana cases beyond a reasonable doubt for a number of reasons. A 2017 SJC case in Massachusetts Commonwealth v. Gerhardt, the court held that in OUI marijuana cases lay witnesses, including police officers not trained as experts, may not testify that a person is impaired by marijuana. They also cannot testify that performance on the field sobriety tests indicate impairment by marijuana. This was an important case for clients charged with OUI marijuana. It makes it difficult for the Commonwealth to prove their case without expert testimony.  Additionally there is currently no scientific test in MA that indicates how much marijuana a person must consume to be impaired, such as the BT with alcohol. If you’ve been charged with OUI Marijuana you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.

Defining the Drug

Under Massachusetts law the Commonwealth must prove that you were under the influence of marihuana, a narcotic drug, a depressant, a stimulant substance or a vapor of glue. It is not enough for the Commonwealth to just present evidence that a person appeared to be under the influence of something. They must show which drug they are alleging the person to be under and what impairment by that drug would look like. This is difficult to prove without admissions or seized contraband. This is why these cases should often be brought to trial. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to evaluate your case and assess whether or not your case should be presented to a judge or jury.

IMPORTANT TAKEAWAY

OUI drug cases are often good cases for trial. The Commonwealth has the added burden of identifying the drug and explaining to a jury what impairment by that drug would look like. This is difficult to do without expert testimony. If you have been charged with OUI drugs it is important to contact an experienced OUI attorney to discuss you specific case. Attorney Gaudreau has handled OUIs throughout the state and is willing to answer any questions you may have. All consultations are free and confidential. She can be reached at 781-698-5055.