Massachusetts DUI Conviction Overturned For Lawyer Failing in Defense

In a recent unpublished decision, the Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed the conviction of a man who was found guilty of Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol because his lawyer failed to introduce to the jury evidence that he had an attention deficit disorder and a learning disability.  The Appeals Court agreed that his lawyer failing to introduce this evidence in his defense prejudiced him at trial, as the evidence would have explained to the jury why the defendant was not able to satisfactorily perform field sobriety tests when he was pulled over.

At trial, the Massachusetts State Police Trooper testified that after he pulled the defendant over for speeding at 94 miles per hour, he administered several field sobriety tests, and that the defendant failed them all.  As a result, the trooper concluded that he was operating while under the influence of alcohol and placed him under arrest.  The defendant also submitted to a breathalyzer test which yielded a reading of 0.06%.

The defendant, 22 at the time, was a college student.  He testified in his defense that he had been diagnosed as a younger child with attention deficit disorder and a learning disability; as well as other medical conditions, including two hip surgeries.  His lawyer attempted to offer a letter at trial from his physician that described the defendant’s medical conditions, but the trial judge excluded the letter because it was “prepared in anticipation of litigation” and did not meet the legal requirements for admissibility.

The Appeals Court concluded that, because the crux of the defendant’s case was his having been diagnosed with ADD and with learning disabilities, the lawyer’s failure to submit evidentiary support to corroborate the defendants testimony undermined his explanation for his inability to perform the field sobriety tests.  For this reason, the defendant was deprived the effective assistance of counsel and entitled to a new trial.

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