Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

SJC Rules Blood Alcohol Tests from Hospital Inadmissible in OUI Prosecutions without Defendant's Consent

The SJC ruled today that where a defendant is charged with OUI and taken to a hospital, the Commonwealth cannot use the blood alcohol tests performed there unless they were done with the consent of the person being charged. 

Frequently, police initiate an OUI investigation where a vehicle has been in an accident and the driver is injured. It is common, in such cases, for police to transport the driver to the hospital for treatment instead of taking them to the station.  When they do so, it is not possible to obtain a breathalyzer test. Police frequently note in their report that blood testing is done at the hospital, and seek to admit those testing results at trial to show the person's blood alcohol level.

This is particularly important because when police make an OUI arrest after a single car accident, there is usually very little or no evidence of the way the person was driving, other than the fact that they were in an accident.  An accident alone does not demonstrate that someone was operating negligently, nor that they were operating in a way that is indicative of intoxication.

The SJC today ruled that because G.L. c. 90, s. 24 only allows the introduciton of blood tests conducted with the consent of the defendant, the hospital records in the cases described above are inadmissible.  If the operator is placed under arrest prior to being transported to the hospital, their refusal to consent may result in a loss of license for between 180 days and lifetime, and in any case police will routinely petition for an immediate threat suspension of the license for any person involved in an accident where suspected drugs or alcohol are involved, but under the decision today, unless the person consents to the blood testing conducted at the hospital, the terms of G.L. c. 90, s. 24 preclude the introduction in evidence of the results of those tests.

See Commonwealth v. Moreau, SJC-13168 (2022)