As a Massachusetts DUI lawyer, a frequent question surrounds the significance of statements contained in the police report. The arrest of Senator Ruggerio in Rhode Island resulted in his police report being published in the Providence Journal and provides a good opportunity to explain how I review DUI police reports.
According to the report, the officer is alerted to the car by a 911 call. If the police have the information for this witness and the witness testifies at trial, it makes for a more difficult case for the defense as the witness would probably be credited by a jury as being a neutral witness.
The officer attempted to stop Ruggerio immediately; in many Massachusetts OUI arrests, the driver will pull over immediately and there will be nothing in the report about how the car was stopped. When a police report does not mention how a driver pulled over, it is a strong point for the defense because it shows normal response in an emergency situation. One thing I look for in addition to what the officer alleges is the driving infraction that caused the stop, but how the driver responded to the emergency lights.
This case is unusual as the report states that the officer deactivated his lights when Senator Ruggerio did not stop immediately. The officer alleges some minor traffic violation of a wide and slow turn. The officer claims that Ruggerio pulled over in the middle of the road, though it appears the car was stopped on a side street.
For the defense, the driving is the State’s best evidence as the rest of the case does not show someone under the influence of alcohol. The difficulty with the license and registration is fairly typical as people keep many documents in the glove box.
The field sobriety tests show an officer unsure whether to make an arrest. Ruggerio tells the officer he has a bad knee making the exercises unreliable when given to him. Still, he does fairly well considering his physical condition.
The key point for a Massachusetts OUI lawyer would be how long it takes to decide to arrest. Despite given three field tests, the officer states in the report he needed to use his Advanced Field Sobriety Test Training to come to his opinion. But for his advanced training, he would never have been able to tell if the Senator was under the influence of alcohol.
The key argument at trial would be that if it is hard to decide to arrest, then there is reasonable doubt because we have an unsure, indecisive officer. These two additional tests have never been studied for reliability and should be excluded at trial.
Senator Ruggerio would have a strong case for trial if he were charged in Massachusetts. Being charged in Rhode Island and having refused the breath test, he may be able to get his DUI dismissed if he admits to the refusal. This option is not available in Massachusetts, where his refusal and OUI charge are completely separate. Given that his DUI charge is very defensible, he may want to have a trial on both the DUI and refusal to avoid a potential license loss in Rhode Island.