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Massachusetts OUI Drugs charge and proving the amount of drugs in your system under Commonwealth v. Shellenberger

In a Massachusetts OUI drugs case, the Commonwealth needs to prove the concentration of drugs in your system to be able to prove you were under the influence of a drug like marijuana, heroin or a prescription drug.  The Commonwealth can attempt to show you were impaired based on observations, but typically that evidence will not be sufficient to support a conviction.

Often, the Commonwealth will attempt to use medical evidence to prove an OUI drugs charge.  However, a Massachusetts OUI Lawyer should object to this evidence.  There is a leading case called Commonwealth v. Shellenberger, 64 Mass. App. 70 (2005) that deal with the issue of when a notation of drug use in medical records can come into evidence.  In the Shellenberger case, the defendant was charged with motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation.  The defendant’s medical records contained a reference to amphetamine in her system.  The Massachusetts Appeals Court found that the reference to the amphetamine in her system was an error of law.  The Appeals Court held that to be properly admitted into evidence there would have to be:

  1. reliable evidence as to the amount or concentration of the drug in the defendant’s system; and
  2. expert testimony indicating that the amount would impair the defendant’s ability to drive.

This is an important holding for defense lawyer during an OUI drugs trial.  Often, the Commonwealth does not present this type of evidence.  If you are charged with OUI drugs, do not assume that your case cannot be won.

Many people believe that because there is a hospital test result that has some indication of drug use that there is not defense to the case.  Many hospital results are only screening tests.  For example, in a case of OUI alcohol where there is a hospital blood test, that test is only a screening test and should not be considered scientifically reliable by the court.

Here are some tips when facing an OUI drugs charge in Massachusetts.  The best thing you can do for yourself is to go to treatment; get records showing that you are clean.  Here is why this is very useful.  First, it will benefit your life and your relationship with those around you.  Second, the Massachusetts Board of Appeals will require three months or negative drugs screens prior to reinstating your license.  Third, in some case, getting treatment ahead of time will help us resolve the case either at the clerk magistrate level or in court.

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