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Worcester Criminal Defense Law Blog

Many factors could undermine reliability of alcohol breath tests

Police officers in Massachusetts have relied on alcohol breath tests to detect alcohol consumption among drivers for years. The results of the test can justify arresting people, and the readings often provide what the courts consider factual evidence of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. The breath test devices, however, have not produced much confidence when investigators scrutinize their accuracy. Hardware failures, out-of-date software and user errors all have the potential to skew results and create unfair convictions.

An investigative report by a major newspaper cited a lack of transparency among breath test manufacturers as a barrier to confirming their accuracy and reliability. Manufacturers guard their proprietary secrets closely and frequently withhold technical information about the devices. Even when devices might perform properly, personnel at police stations might not calibrate the machines or update software as necessary.

Turning clocks back increases the risk of traffic accidents

At the beginning of November, daylight saving time came to an end in Massachusetts, making days shorter and disrupting sleep patterns for area residents. Unfortunately, this can lead to an uptick in car accidents.

According to AAA, turning the clock back can interrupt drivers' circadian rhythms and change their normal sleep cycle, which can make them sleepy behind the wheel. The National Sleep Foundation reports that over 6,400 people are killed and 50,000 are injured in drowsy driving crashes across the U.S. each year. To help prevent such accidents, traffic safety advocates say it's important for drivers to go to bed at the same time each day and make sure they get adequate sleep before operating a vehicle.

Community service burdens poor defendants

Massachusetts readers might be interested to learn that court-ordered community service harms low-income defendants of color, according to a new study. The study, which is entitled "Work, Pay, or Go to Jail: Court-Ordered Community Service in Los Angeles," was published by the UCLA Labor Center and School of Law on Oct. 16.

Researchers analyzed data on 5,000 Los Angeles defendants who were ordered to complete community service because they couldn't pay court fines. They found that community service hours disproportionately impact people of color. For example, 81% of defendants assigned community service in traffic court were Latino, 8% were black, 9% were white and 2% were Asian. They also found that judges often ordered defendants to complete more community service hours than the dollar value of the original fine imposed. For instance, a median of 51 hours was assigned to pay off traffic fines of $520. In L.A. County, the median number of hours assigned for all violations was 100 hours. Meanwhile, 25% of defendants were ordered to work at least 155 hours to pay off their fines.

What to do during a DUI stop

Every day we’re faced with decisions. Some of these decisions involve weighing right versus wrong when determining which choice is correct. The same is true for when law enforcement suspects you of drunk driving.

While it’s good to know and understand your rights, taking this idea too far could worsen your situation. After all, the prospect of a drunk driving charge is serious enough and you don’t want to unintentionally wind up in more trouble.

Property owners file more insurance claims for Halloween

Spooky season is the favorite time of year for many in Massachusetts. It is a time to dress up and invoke the power of make-believe. While the holiday is geared mostly toward children, adults love it too. Unfortunately, there is one thing about Halloween that many property owners hate.

According to MarketWatch, Halloween brings out the vandals, leading to the highest number of claims each year. This includes not just for homes but also cars. Subsequently, the first of November is a busy day for insurance companies. Broken windows, slashed tires, ruined lawns, awful pranks and other acts of random mayhem are most likely to occur on Halloween.

Is sharing prescription drugs illegal?

If you are like many Massachusetts residents, you may have some leftover prescription pain relievers in your medicine cabinet from a previous injury or illness. When a friend gets an injury, you may decide to share your leftover medication to help manage the pain. Even though it may seem that you are simply helping out until your friend gets a prescription from his or her doctor, the consequences for such an action may be severe. Even if you do not ask for payment, giving drugs to someone without a prescription for them may count as distributing a controlled substance.

According to FindLaw, giving away or sharing prescription drugs may have similar legal consequences as selling illicit drugs. The key to obtaining a drug legally is the prescription, and a prescription does not generally cover anyone except for the patient. Additionally, most prescriptions only cover a certain time period relating to medical treatment for a specific condition. That means if you have leftover pain relievers from a prior injury, it may be illegal for you to take them for a new injury.

What are the steps to reinstate your driver's license?

There are several ways you may lose your Massachusetts driver's license, including getting a conviction for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Once your suspension has expired, there are a few tasks you may need to complete in order to reinstate your license. The specifics of your case may determine the exact requirements you need to meet to get your license back.

You may find detailed instructions for reinstating your license on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website. Getting your license back usually involves paying a fee. The cost of the reinstatement fee varies depending on the circumstances that caused your license suspension. State law indicates that fees may cost up to $1200. Along with paying the fee, you may also have to pass one or more exams, such as a leaner's permit exam and/or a road test. If your license suspension was longer than two years, you must take both the exam and the road test. There are also strict requirements to reinstate a CDL: The state requires you to pass the CDL road test and CDL permit exam.

Advocate groups pushing for ignition interlocks with first OUI

You can face stiff penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol in Massachusetts. Even if it is your first conviction for operating under the influence (OUI), the court can charge you heavy fines and even take away your license for a year. But in Massachusetts, the court cannot require you to install an ignition interlock for your first OUI offense.

Massachusetts is the only state in the U.S. that does not require ignition interlocks for first-time OUI convictions. Advocate group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) hopes to convince lawmakers to pass a bill that changes that.

Going back to work with an arrest or prison record

There’s a lot of talk about the improving job market in Massachusetts and the rest of the United States. However, there are some people in America who desperately want to work but struggle to get hired. These are people with arrest records or who have served time in jail or prison. Some of these people served time for minor infractions, while others committed serious crimes twenty years ago and have steered clear of trouble since.

Forbes believes that states need to show a greater commitment toward giving ex-cons a fresh start. It notes that all across America, criminal records affect 30,000 licensing restrictions. Note that roughly 30% of American jobs require a license to work. Put simply, there are many high-skilled and professional fields requiring licenses that ex-cons are not eligible for because of past records.

Domestic violence and its financial impact

Domestic violence is perhaps no less common in Massachusetts than other states. There are instances where one partner accuses the other of domestic assault. However, there are far more instances when these allegations are true. This may make it difficult, though not impossible to prove the accused partner’s innocence, particularly if that partner is a man. Why is this?

Over the past few years, the #MeToo movement spread from Hollywood to D.C. and took down a lot of executives, celebrities and politicians along the way. While not always, in most of these instances, the accused person was a man. In fact, CNN reports that every day, at least three women die at the hands of husbands and boyfriends. Add children, friends, innocent bystanders, a new partner or law enforcement officers to the numbers and the death toll of domestic abuse climbs even higher.

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