Documents admitted on driver's suspended license violated his rights

If you are accused of "OUI"-operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol-you may face fines, possible jail time, and a suspended license. If you then drive with a suspended license, you are subject to even more penalties.

However, flaws in a case, whether they occur during your initial vehicle stop or in later court proceedings, provide potential defenses against the charges brought against you, as seen in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case of Commonwealth v. Lee.

Driving with a suspended license

The defendant's license was suspended for two years, following two OUI offenses. One of those offenses was a conviction in the State of New Hampshire.

Approximately one year later, the defendant was driving his motor vehicle in Chelmsford and was stopped by a police officer. In a trial before the judge only, the defendant was convicted under Massachusetts law of operating a motor vehicle after his license had already been suspended for OUI.

The defendant appealed his conviction on several grounds, including on the basis that the admission of several documents by the prosecution had violated his rights under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard the defendant's appeal on this matter.

"Confrontation rights" violated

At the trial, the prosecution had introduced records from the Massachusetts state registry as well as from the New Hampshire division of motor vehicles, showing that the defendant was driving with a suspended license at the time of his arrest. In particular, the prosecution used the documents to show that the defendant had received notice of his license suspension.

The defendant argued that the admission of the documents, without live testimony from employees from the state registry and the New Hampshire division of motor vehicles, violated his right to confrontation under the Constitution; specifically, the right of a defendant to "confront" his accusers.

The defendant's counsel properly objected to the admission of the registry documents without accompanying live testimony, and the admission of the documents, to the extent that they addressed the issue of the defendant's notice of the suspension, was error. Also, in addition, that error was not harmless, particularly since the prosecution had offered no other evidence showing that the defendant had received notice of his license suspension.

Therefore, the defendant was entitled to a new trial on the criminal charges.

Potential defenses against charges

Whether you are fighting an initial charge of OUI, or dealing with repeat offender charges or appeals, it is crucial that you have an attorney who will protect your rights throughout the proceedings, and work to obtain a dismissal or a favorable plea agreement. Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who will work relentlessly to achieve the best possible result in your case.