A Lowell District Court jury today took less than 10 minutes to find Attorney Chris Spring’s client not guilty of operating under the influence of alcohol (second offense).
At approximately 1:30 a.m. on March 29, 2019, a Tyngsborough police officer saw the defendant stop at a red light. Before the light turned green, the defendant drove through the intersection. The officer began following the defendant and saw him swerve within his lane multiple times. After about a mile, the officer activated his emergency lights and the defendant pulled to the side of the road. When the officer approached the defendant’s car, he smelled an overwhelming odor of alcohol. The defendant admitted he had been drinking earlier at dinner. The officer asked the defendant to produce his license and registration and the defendant looked confused and had problems finding the registration. The officer then requested that the defendant perform field sobriety tests on the side of the road.
The officer first administered the nine-step walk and turn test. At trial, the officer testified the defendant did not touch his heel to toe, as instructed, on two of the steps. According to the officer, the defendant also was unable to maintain his balance when he was placed in an “instructional pose,” which required him to stand still with his hands by his side and one foot in front of the other. During cross-examination, Attorney Spring asked the officer to demonstrate the instructional pose to the jury. The officer got off the witness stand, stood in front of the jury, placed one foot in front of the other, and promptly lost his balance – greatly damaging the Commonwealth’s argument that loss of balance during the instructional pose is a strong indicator of intoxication. The officer also testified the defendant failed the one-legged stand test because he held his foot in the air for only 10 seconds (instead of 30). Finally, the officer said when he ordered the defendant to recite the alphabet, the defendant failed by singing the last few letters. The defendant submitted to the roadside breathalyzer test (which is inadmissible in court) and blew a .15.
At trial, Attorney Spring cross-examined the police officer and forced him to admit he did not remember important details about the field sobriety tests, the arrest, and the booking process. The officer also conceded he could not tell how much the defendant had had to drink based on the smell alone, and the defendant’s other signs of intoxication (such as bloodshot eyes) could have been caused by factors other than alcohol. Attorney Spring also played parts of the booking video in court to establish the defendant did not appear to be unsteady on his feet and did not appear to have slurred speech. During his closing argument, Attorney Spring told the jury his client could not have performed the field sobriety tests as well as he had if he was under the influence of alcohol, and the booking video established conclusively that he was not impaired.
Following a very quick deliberation, the jury acquitted the defendant, who had been facing a suspended jail sentence along with an order to complete a 14-day inpatient alcohol program at a state hospital (which is the standard sentence for anyone convicted of a second-offense OUI in Massachusetts).