Here’s a question. What happens if you’re found intoxicated in your car – but while the car is parked, with the engine still running? Can you be arrested and convicted for drunk driving?
Here’s an answer you might not expect. Yes, you can be arrested and charged with Operating Under The Influence (OUI) in Massachusetts, or as it’s more commonly known, drunk driving. What most people don’t know is that you don’t necessarily have to be driving a car to be charged and convicted of “Operating” under the influence in Massachusetts. As long as you are seated in the driver’s seat, the keys are in ignition and – and this is central – you fail a sobriety test or blow greater than .08 on a Breathalyzer test — that’s enough to legally constitute “operation” of a motro vehicle in Massachsetts. And then you’re in big legal trouble.
This is exactly what happened to a Mr. Rick Vanzura this past Wednesday, in Hull. Mr. Vanzura is the CEO of Wahlburgers, the Hingham restaurant serving burgers and fries that is owned by Hollywood actors — and Boston celebrities — Mark and Donnie Wahlberg. Mr. Vanzura was reportedly found slumped over in his driver’s seat, with the seat belt on, in his parked vehicle on Nantasket Avenue in Hull. Police knocked on the window and questioned him, and reportedly detected a strong odor of alcohol coming from Mr. Vanzura’s vehicle. Anzura supposedly admitted to police that he had consumed two glasses of wine earlier in the day, but according to police he could not allegedly remember the name of the restaurant where he had been drinking.
Mr. Vanzura was arrested after he allegedly failed roadside sobriety tests. These tests, also referred to as”Field Sobriety Tests,” are a series of behavorial tests designed to determine chemical intoxication or impairment. They include a heel-to-toe walking test, reciting of the alphabet, and a pupil observation test known as “horizontal gaze nystagmus” test. Further tests reportedly showed that Mr. Vanzura’s blood alcohol content was above the legal limit. Blood Alcohol Content (“BAC”) is a chemical measure of the presence and concentration of ethyl alcohol in your bloodstream. Testing for Blood Alcohol Content can be done two ways: 1) A blood serum test (blood test) or 2) A Breathalyzer test. The most common of these two tests is the Breathalyzer, which almost all Massachusetts police stations and cruisers give to suspected drunk drivers who agree to take the test. A refusal to submit to an alcohol test, when requested by a law enforcement officer, carries very strict Massachusetts DUI penalties.
After being arraigned in Hingham Disrict Court, he admitted to sufficient facts and his case was continued in Hingham District Court without a finding until July 25,2013. A plea of “Admitted to Sufficient Facts” means that a defendant acknowledges that, if the case were brought to trial, the Commonwealth would have enough evidence to secure a conivction against him or her, but the defendant chooses to forego his right to a trial and instead enter a plea of, essentially. “no contest.” In return, a lighter sentence is generally recommended and given by the judge. This plea is usually reserved for first or second time offenders of a particular crime. It is a plea option that is designed to allow a defendant to essentially admit his mistake, avoid a formal finding of guilt, and learn from that mistake.
The point of this particular story? It is the same as always on this subject – never drink and drive. And if you do drink and pull over in order to “sleep it off,” make sure to turn off your vehicle, and take your keys out of the ignition. In the best-case scenario, call someone immediately to come and pick you up. The irony of this particular story, is that if Mr. Vanzura really was intoxicated at the time of his arrest – and I’m not saying that he was – he did the personally and morally correct thing in pulling over to the side of the road, instead of attempting to drive. But once you’re intoxicated and in the driver’s seat of your car, you open yourself up to serious criminal charges. To be safest, never get behind the wheel while there is alcohol in your bloodstream.
If you do get arrested, make sure to seek out an experienced and talented Norfolk County drunk driving attorney.