After driving through the intersection from which she was supposed to turn left, CK, a 36-year-old financial analyst, made an illegal u-turn at the next intersection. Unfortunately, two Massachusetts State Troopers saw her make the prohibited turn.
The troopers followed CK’s car for approximately 2 minutes, then pulled her over when it was safe to do so. Approaching CK’s car, Trooper 1 informed her why he stopped her. CK apologized. Trooper 1 noticed that CK’s breath smelled strongly like alcohol, so he asked her if she had consumed any. CK told Trooper 1 that she drank two glasses of wine earlier in the evening. Trooper 1 noticed that CK’s speech was slurred and that eyes were bloodshot. Trooper 1 asked CK to get out of her car.
Once out of her car, Trooper 1 told CK to step onto the sidewalk and perform field sobriety tests. At this point Trooper 2 got out of the cruiser and stood near CK and Trooper 1. CK was told to do the following field sobriety tests – count backwards from 61 to 40, say the alphabet from D to V, One Leg Stand for 30 seconds, and the 9-step walk and turn. According to Trooper 1, CK failed the tests.
CK was arrested and taken to the state police barracks. CK insisted that she felt “fine” and that she was not impaired. CK agreed to take a breath test, the results of which were 0.14.
Before trial, Henry filed a Motion to Suppress the breath test. The basis for the motion was that the trooper did not “observe” CK for at least 15 minutes before administering the test. By law, breath test operators must watch the subject for at least 15 minutes to ensure that the subject does not do anything that might contaminate the breath sample – such as burp, hiccup, or put something in their mouth. At the suppression hearing CK testified that Trooper 1 had his back to her for most of the 15-minute observation period. Trooper 1 agreed that his back was indeed directed toward CK for a large part of the observation period. Additionally, it was Trooper 1’s first OUI arrest – he had just graduated from the academy 2 weeks prior. This was his “break-in” period. The judge agreed that CK had not been observed for 15 minutes; therefore, he excluded the breath test from evidence.
CK went to trial. She testified at trial and told her story – she had been at a friend’s house and was on her way home, she felt “just fine to drive” and that she felt nervous and surprised that the Troopers thought she was “impaired” by alcohol. Her testimony was credible.
CK was found Not Guilty