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The Appeals Court has ruled that an intoxicated driver’s admission to operating a motor vehicle, along with “quite minimal” corroborating evidence, is sufficient for a conviction under Massachusetts’ OUI law (M.G.L. c. 90, § 24).

The state police encountered the defendant while he and another man were standing beside a car that had gone of the road. This encounter took place around 1 am on Route 140 in Taunton. The trooper observed damage to the passenger side of the car which included a flat tire.

The defendant admitted to driving the car and told the trooper that an animal ran in front of the car, causing him to drive off the road. However, the defendant could not explain what type of animal he saw. Additionally, the defendant admitted to being at the beach earlier that day and consuming alcohol while there.

The trooper claimed to smell alcohol on the defendant’s breathe and decided to conduct a field sobriety test which the defendant partly failed.

The defendant was charged with an OUI and ultimately convicted after a jury trial. On appeal, his attorney argued, in part, that the defendant’s admission to operating the vehicle was insufficient to satisfy that element of the crime; more evidence was needed to corroborate the admission.

Reciting the applicable law, the Appeals Court noted that

“[A]n uncorroborated confession is ‘insufficient to prove guilt.'”…The Supreme Judicial Court adopted this rule to “preclude[] the possibility of conviction of crime based solely on statements made by a person suffering a mental or emotional disturbance or some other aberration.”…Accordingly, “[t]he corroboration required, though important, is ‘quite minimal.'”…”The corroboration rule requires only that there be some evidence, besides the confession, that the criminal act was committed by someone, that is, that the crime was real and not imaginary.”

Applying the applicable case law to the present case, the Appeals Court held

Here, “[a]dditional corroboration was provided . . . in the explanation given by the defendant about how the accident occurred.”…The damage to the car bumper and the flat right passenger tire were consistent with the defendant’s statement to the trooper that he had hit the curb. The defendant performed the field sobriety tests without protest. A finder of fact could consider all of these events and “infer operation from the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident and from the defendant’s cooperation with the field sobriety tests.”

The case, in its entirety, is attached below: