BLOOD DRAW EVIDENCE ADMISSIBLE IN OUI INVOLVING ACCIDENT

In Commonwealth v. Ackerman. the SJC affirmed the lower court’s admission of blood alcohol test evidence against Ackerman. “Ackerman was charged in a complaint with operating while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, second offense,” and a related offense. “The charges resulted from a single vehicle accident in which the vehicle that Ackerman was driving struck a utility pole and rolled over. After the accident, Ackerman was transported to the hospital where medical personnel administered several scans and conducted several tests, including a blood alcohol test.” The defendant “filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence of the blood alcohol test from the hospital records based on her right to confrontation under the Sixth Amendment…. A judge in the District Court allowed the motion.” This decision was overruled on appeal and Ackerman appealed.

The SJC ruled that there was no abuse of discretion or clear error of law by the single justice “in ordering that the blood alcohol test evidence was admissible.” The Court noted that “pursuant to well-established Massachusetts law, the statute ‘permits the admission in evidence, in the judge’s discretion, of certified hospital records “so far as such records relate to the treatment and medical history”’ of the patient.  We construe the statute liberally; ‘thus, a “record which relates directly and mainly to the treatment and medical history of the patient, should be admitted, even though incidentally the facts recorded may have some bearing on the question of liability.”’ If, in short and as is relevant here, the blood alcohol test administered to Ackerman was ‘performed as a routine medical practice in the course of the treatment of the defendant following a motor vehicle accident,’, then the evidence related to the test is admissible.” In this case, the blood test “was just one of a battery of tests and CT scans that medical personnel performed in the course of treating Ackerman. She had been in a single vehicle accident; a police officer who responded to the scene of the accident had reason to believe that Ackerman was intoxicated; and numerous entries in her medical record similarly so indicate. Because Ackerman was agitated and unable to remain still while medical personnel were treating her, she was administered Ativan, a sedative. In the circumstances, it is clear on this record that the blood alcohol test was merely one of a number of tests conducted as a part of assessing the condition of and treating the patient as presented. Indeed, it is eminently logical that, as the Commonwealth suggests, medical personnel would need to know whether Ackerman was intoxicated prior to administering Ativan to her.”

 

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