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Articles Posted in Fourth Offense OUI

A Marlborough man facing, a repeat offense OUI charge in Massachusetts, a 7th offense, was found to be a danger to the public and was ordered to be held without bail until his trial. John Sawicki, 49, has a long record, according to the news account and was arrested last Tuesday after the stolen car he was driving was spotted by an officer. Sawicki was found in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition. The officer allegedly smelled alcohol, vomit, and urine in the vehicle. Sawicki appeared to be impaired and kept nodding off during questioning. His arrest came after state and local police officials received multiple reports that the stolen car was erratically weaving on Interstate 290 East. The Metrowest Daily News reported that Sawicki’s vehicle had several cold beer cans and assorted car parts. The vehicle was reported stolen by the DMV.

Police report that Sawicki swore at him and refused to take a sobriety test . The judge found Sawicki dangerous and ordered him held without bail. He is currently being charged with OUI (fifth offense or greater), receiving a stolen vehicle, possession of an open container of alcohol, and driving with a suspended Massachusetts license revoked for OUI .

A person in Massachusetts charged with a 4th OUI offense or greater may be required to attend a dangerousness hearing. This hearing is held to evaluate the defendant’s danger to the community at large. During the dangerousness hearing in Massachusetts , the judge will consider several factors. For instance, the judge will look at the nature of the crime, along with other factors to determine if the person should be detained or the conditions upon release. This hearing is typically held at the defendant’s first court experience, therefore it is crucial to hire an experienced Marlborough OUI attorney during this time. The attorney may request a continuance for a maximum of seven days to prepare a preliminary defense.

Dangerousness hearings differ from criminal hearings in that all the evidence is admissible when determining if the defendant is a danger to the community. The judge may also reopen the dangerousness hearing if new evidence comes to light that supports that the defendant poses a risk to society. The decision to hold a defendant will be made only after the hearing determines by clear and convincing evidence that the safety of the community will be at risk regardless of the conditions of release for the accused. The period of time that the court is allowed to detain a person in this situation, can not exceed 90 days.

A judge will look at a number of factors to determine whether or not bail should be granted when facing a multiple OUI charges in Massachusetts :
*The nature and seriousness of the danger that would be imposed upon the
community if the defendant were released
*The circumstances and the nature of the offenses charged *The potential sentence of the crime *History of mental illness and employment record *Conviction record and prior charges/bail violations *Reputation of the defendant and any family ties *Controlled substance dependence

Sawicki’s is being held without bail until his March 9th pre-trial hearing.
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A Duxbury man with seven prior OUI convictions in Massachusetts and who was recently arrested on a new charge, was found to be dangerous by a judge and is being held in jail, the Patriot Ledger reports.

Being charged with OUI in Massachusetts is a serious offense, but a driver’s past can make a new charge even more difficult to deal with. That’s because in Massachusetts, prior OUI convictions can make future penalties for a drunken driver more severe.

Having past convictions affect a future sentence may not seem fair, but that’s how the laws are written. The tiered nature of the state’s drunk driving law make it critical to fight each charge. A first-offense DUI in Massachusetts is often the most beatable. Taking a plea today can put your future at risk tomorrow.

In order to prove a person is facing their eighth OUI charge in Massachusetts, the prosecution must be able to prove the past convictions. In many cases, a person may have been charged and convicted of a drunken driving related crime in a different state, many years ago. The court case recording system in many states wasn’t very good, so prosecutors sometimes have difficulty proving past convictions. In some cases, the documentation is lost, deleted or doesn’t show the necessary information to prove a conviction.

In this case, prosecutors believe a Duxbury man has seven prior OUI convictions and he was recently arrested on another OUI charge. The man will be held in a jail until his next court date in mid-February.

Mark Dirsa was ordered held in a Plymouth jail after a Plymouth District Court judge ruled that he’s “dangerous” and must be held in custody. He was arrested Dec. 28 in Kingston after police allege he crashed into a sedan.

He is next scheduled to appear in court Feb. 13 for a pretrial hearing. The newspaper reports that if he is convicted of OUI he would face a lifetime driver’s license suspension as well as more than two years in jail.

The newspaper reports that state records show the 54-year-old has an eight page-long driving infraction record. But his prior drunken driving convictions go back to the 1980s and 1990s. Based on the state’s lifetime look-back law, all previous convictions can be counted at sentencing.

Police say the man is dependent on oxycodone and told police that he took the drug on the morning of the crash. Police reported that they found 11 pill bottles in his truck’s glove compartment. He also faces charges of falsifying a prescription last year to obtain oxycodone.

The newspaper article doesn’t provide additional details about why police suspect he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Simply admitting to taking a pain pill the morning of an afternoon accident doesn’t rise to the standard of proof for an OUI conviction. Unless other testing was done to show this wasn’t simply an accident, the defendant may have an opportunity to fight this charge.
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A Massachusetts Fourth Offense OUI conviction was upheld by the Appeals Court in the case of Commonwealth v. Russell Beaulieu, decided on March 18, 2011. The Beaulieu decision also involved the issue of refusing field sobriety tests which was the subject of an earlier blog.

In the Beaulieu case, the Massachusetts DUI lawyer argued that because the defendant was charged with a Fourth Offense drunk driving charge and the charge of operating with a suspended license because of an OUI conviction that the court should bifurcate the counts of the criminal complaint in order to ensure the defendant a right to a fair trial.

Ordinarily, in a charge of a Second or Third DUI, the jury does not learn of the prior convictions. The jury decides whether the driver operated under the influence of alcohol and in a separate proceeding either a judge or the same jury decides the number of prior offenses. Because of the charge of operating on a suspended license for OUI, the jury learned of the prior conviction.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court did not address the obvious prejudice to the defendant in refusing to severe the counts for trial, but held that the evidence of the prior conviction was necessary to prove the Count of operating on a suspended license for OUI. Additionally, the Court noted that the jury was properly instructed on the purpose for which that evidence was offered.

The Appeals Court distinguished the reason for the separate trial on the number of prior DUI offenses because it held that in those situations the court was dealing with a sentence enhancement and not an element of the offense.

As a Massachusetts DUI attorney, I would expect the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to grant further appellate review. While courts do not like to severe counts of a criminal complaint because it is more time consuming for the court, here, that was required to preserve the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. Having heard that the defendant had a prior OUI offense and continued to drive, the defendant was clearly prejudiced in front of the jury regarding this count.

While the defendant may not have been willing to accept a plea on the Operating on a suspended license charge, as it would have involved jail time, it would have been a way to avoid the prejudice of this evidence coming in at the time of trial. However, it is unfair to require a defendant to surrender his right to a jury trial in order to obtain a fair trial. In this case, the only avenue will be an appeal to the SJC in the hopes that the highest court in Massachusetts, reverses the conviction and orders a new trial.
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