OUI Alcohol, Operating to Endanger, and Drug Possession charges were filed in Lynn District Court against a Winthrop man after the Swamscott Police found him outside of his wrecked pickup truck on Wednesday.
I mention this simple case from a Swamscott Patch article because it illustrates the common situation of having a case that has some good facts that get dragged down by some not-so-good ones. The article says that Salvatore Lamattina hit a utility pole with his pick-up truck on Stetson Drive in Swamscott on April 25. When the Swamscott Police arrived, they saw that the driver's-side front tire and suspension had separated from the vehicle. Lamattina was standing outside of his truck and was unsteady on his feet. Lamattina told the officers that he crashed because the wheel had fallen off the vehicle. A hand-held field breathalyzer showed Lamattina's blood alcohol level at .06.
So far, so good for the defense. 1) The legal alcohol limit is .08; 2) An unexpected mechanical malfunction should not result in a conviction for OUI or Operating to Endanger; and 3) A person recently involved in a crash of that nature could reasonably be expected to be shaken up and unsteady.
But there is more. In addition to telling the police about the wheel falling off (which they did not believe because of certain skid marks), Lamattina told them that he had taken the drug Suboxone earlier for a leg injury. Even if your blood alcohol level is below the legal limit, you may still be convicted of OUI especially if you have mixed drugs with alcohol and the consumption of the mixture negatively affected your ability to operate safely. Lamattina's statement gave the prosecution all they need to prove mixing drugs and alcohol.
In addition, while having three cold beers and three empties in the truck may not negate the relatively low alcohol level, it does add a certain negative impression. On top of that, the police found pills in the car that they claimed were the drug Methadone. If he were not authorized to have them, he has a problem with the drug possession charge, and if he were authorized to have them, a jury may understand the meaning that goes along with Suboxone and Methadone - treatment for heroin addiction.
The drugs may not have had anything to do with his driving, or may have had a lot to do with it. Either way they just make what could have been a good defense case a much more difficult one.
Lastly, I should note that the results of a portable breath test are generally not admissible at trial. Only breath tests properly administered on properly tested and maintained breathalyzers are admissible. So, even that positive factor is no help.
All is not lost, but Lamattina has a challenging road ahead. He will require an experienced criminal defense attorney to steer the way.