2/20/2008Massachussetts: Court Clears Drunk Cop of DUI
Northborough, Massachussetts police officer cleared of drunk driving by arguing blood tests should not be taken by force.
A Fitchburg, Massachusetts District Court cleared a police officer of drunk driving charges on the grounds that his blood alcohol readings were taken without his consent. Judge Andrew Mandell on February 1 found Northborough Police Officer James F Scesny, 38, not guilty of operating his red 1993 Chevrolet pickup truck into a telephone pole under the influence of alcohol.
Injured after the 2am incident on May 13, 2007, Scesny was taken to Clinton Hospital where hospital staff draw his blood. According to the MetroWest Daily News, Scesny argued that he did not consent to any testing and that federal medical privacy laws prohibited disclosure of the .168 blood alcohol reading that placed him at twice the legal limit.
"When they mentioned blood alcohol testing to the defendant he stated he wanted to think about it and that he wanted to contact a lawyer," Scesny's motion to suppress stated. "Any results from a (blood) draw by the hospital staff for medical purposes was shielded by HIPAA."
Clinton District Court Judge Martha A Breenan agreed with this argument on January 18. Although Clinton Police Department reports claimed that Scesny smelled of alcohol, had glassy eyes and slurred his speech, a Fitchburg judge found that, without the blood test, the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction. For his accident, Scesny paid a $250 negligent driving fine. After the court ruling, Scesny expressed a desire to return to his police duties as soon as possible.
States such as Texas have authorized police to draw blood from motorists by force in cases of alleged DUI, and a New Jersey appelate court went so far as to approve the use of extreme force in taking a motorist's blood. The Minnesota Appeals Court found that this practice should only be done with a judicial warrant.