Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Aims to Counter Lenient Drunk Driving Judges: The Attorneys at Wilson Bush Durkin & Keefe Discuss Implications for New Hampshire DWI

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On Thursday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court sought to counter recent research showing judges in some Massachusetts courts, such as Worcester County, were acquitting nearly all DWI, DUI and OUI cases where the accused waived a jury trial. The Lawyers at Wilson Bush Durkin & Keefe consider possible repercussions and consequences for New Hampshire drunk-driving cases.

This so-called 'judge-shopping' has been increasing. In Worcester County, the judge acquittal rate for OUI verdicts is 98%. The jury acquittal rate is 63%.

In a front page Boston Globe article on November 2nd, 2012 (, a study’s findings indicate that “drunk driving defendants were waiting until the last moment before deciding on a jury trial in hopes that a judge with a reputation for leniency appeared in their court.” This so-called “judge –shopping” has been increasing, because the acquittal rate for a judge is proving to be significantly higher than for a jury. For example, in Worcester County, the bench (judge) acquittal rate for OUI verdicts is 98%. The jury acquittal rate is 63%.

The study did not find any allegations from lawyers or judges that were interviewed, of any “corrupt relationships between lawyers and judges.” The study found that a high percentage of cases dismissed were the result of careless police work, questionable field sobriety tests and some prosecutors' hesitancy to dismiss what were obviously flawed cases.

The Boston Globe article noted: “most OUI cases are disposed of before trial and the study only focused on those cases where a judge or jury made a finding of guilty or not guilty.”

New Hampshire Laws on drunk driving are similar in several respects to Massachusetts and adjoining state laws. One area of difference with Massachusetts is the commercial rate of .04% in Massachusetts. Another is New Hampshire’s second level of DUI, termed aggravated assault where a blood-alcohol level is .16% or higher. The under-21 blood alcohol rate is .02 in New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. The over 21 rate is .08 in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The uniqueness of the local New Hampshire legal system, police procedures and other factors, underline the importance in selecting a law firm with extensive trial experience in New Hampshire. Trial experience is an essential factor as it allows for more options for defendants.

The Law Firm of Wilson, Bush, Durkin & Keefe has extensive experience in criminal cases including DUI, OUI and DWI cases in New Hampshire and Massachusetts courts. Please call or visit our website to see videos of our attorneys making arguments before the New Hampshire Supreme Court. For more information visit: or call (603) 595-0007.

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Christopher Angelini

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