OUI AND MIRANDA
COMMONWEALTH VS. ROBERT J. PERRON
A Trial Court jury convicted the defendant, Robert J. Perron, of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor (OUI). On appeal, the defendant argued:
The Appellate Court ultimately ruled:
Testifying for the Commonwealth at trial, State Trooper Paul Bertozzi stated that on the night of the defendant’s arrest, the defendant admitted to drinking “two small bottles of red wine” and self-assessed his level of intoxication at a “two” on a scale of one to ten, with one being completely sober.
The Court agreed with the Defense that the statements were inadmissible under Miranda. At the motion hearing, Bertozzi testified that he orally administered the warnings to the defendant upon his arrest and that the defendant “indicate[d] that he understood those rights”. However, on cross-examination, Bertozzi contradicted himself, testifying that the defendant never “indicated to [me] at all that he understood those rights”, that “he was waiving those rights”, or “that he wanted to speak to [me] about the incident”. The Court concluded that because of that contradiction, no one gave the defendant his constitutionally required Miranda warnings.
Furthermore, the Court determined that it could not conclude that the unresolved conflicting testimony rose to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge also made no explicit findings that the defendant understood the warnings or knowingly waived his Miranda rights. Combining these two considerations, the Court concluded that in the absence of a supportable finding that the defendant understood the Miranda warnings and knowingly waived them, it could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant waived his Miranda rights.
The Commonwealth did introduce testimony as to the defendant’s slurred speech, glassy eyes, and the odor of alcohol coming from his breath. However, absent the defendant’s statement on what exactly he drank, there was no evidence as to the amount or type of alcohol the defendant consumed. Furthermore, absent to the defendant’s admission of consuming two small bottles of wine, the jury might have accepted the defendant’s explanation that a prior back injury resulting in two broken bones and not alcohol interfered with his ability to perform his field sobriety tests properly.
Thus, taking all these considerations into account, the Appellate Court reversed the guilty judgment on the charge of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicating liquor, subsequent offense, and set aside the verdict and finding.
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Source: Commonwealth vs. Jonathan G. Alves, 17-P-965